Johanna Konta played superbly to beat Kurumi Nara 6-4 6-2 and level the score in Great Britain’s Fed Cup World Cup Group II Play-Off with Japan.
It was an impressive display of nerve from the British No.1, who had to win the match to ensure her team retained a realistic chance of victory in the tie after Naomi Osaka overpowered Heather Watson 6-2 6-3 in the first match.
Konta started the match in ideal fashion. She signalled her intentions by hitting a huge backhand return to win the first point, followed that with an excellent forehand winner and sealed the break when Nara hit a backhand long.
The Japanese player got almost everything back in the next game, and at one stage the British No.1 hit two consecutive aces as she was forced to save three break points in order to hold serve.
Amazingly, the five break points in the opening two games were the only ones in the set. Both Konta and Nara served well and struck their groundstrokes with skill and purpose, and the score rattled along to 5-4 in Britain’s favour without any drama.
Then the nerves kicked in for the British No.1. She breezed to 40-15 on her serve, but double faulted and hit a backhand long to let her Japanese opponent back into the game.
Konta earned two more set points with big serves and powerful backhands, and took the second after a forehand from Nara went just wide.
Despite its more emphatic scoreline, the second set was closely fought and the British No.1 had to draw on all her qualities to win it.
Konta came out on top in a seemingly endless stream of long rallies to break twice in the first three games after they all went to deuce.
However, Nara turned the tables in game four by breaking back during another tight game. She then held serve to put the British No.1 under pressure.
At this stage of the match, Konta found another gear. She held serve comfortably and then hit a series of superb backhands to regain the double break, before holding again with ease to close out the match.
“(Nara) definitely used the energy of the crowd,” said Konta in her on-court interview. “She made it really hard for me out there.”
The Brit continued, “I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy match and that I was going to have to earn my way to get an opportunity to come through as the winner today.”
Great Britain Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong was understandably pleased with Konta’s performance.
“Jo put in a fantastic performance,” she said in her on-court interview. “She kept a high level. I thought her opponent was also able to raise her level, but Jo was just too good.”
Osaka overpowers Watson
Osaka produced an excellent performance to beat Watson in straight sets. The Japanese used all her power to hit several huge serves and plenty of spectacular groundstrokes.
The British No.2 initially coped well. She used her defensive abilities to great effect to make Osaka play extra balls and almost earned a break in game three. However, the Japanese saved the break point with an ace.
The Brit made life difficult for herself in game four when she made two errors and a double fault to slip down 0-40. She recovered to 30-40, but Osaka hammered a forehand winner down the line to seal the break.
And the Japanese No.1 never looked back. She blazed through her next two service games in the blink of an eye to lead 5-2, and then Watson double-faulted twice to give her the game she needed to seal the set.
The British No.2 made a good start to the first game of the second set and earned two break points, but Osaka did not give her any chance to capitalise on them as she thundered down two aces and another huge serve to set up the hold.
Watson saved two break points in the next game with some well-judged aggression and an excellent forehand winner, but it was only a temporary respite.
The Brit was unable to cope with Osaka’s powerful groundstrokes and, although she fought hard during a long game, the Japanese eventually got the break she wanted with three fantastic winners in succession.
Watson kept it to one break and threw everything she had at Osaka as she tried to break the Japanese No.1 when she was serving for the match.
But ultimately it was not enough, as Osaka saved two break points with brilliant backhand winners before taking her second match point when the British No.2 netted a forehand.
“I was really relieved I was able to win because this is my first Fed Cup tie here,” said Osaka in her on-court interview. “I really wanted to win and make everyone happy.”
Italian Captain Tathiana Garbin Reveals Rare Tumor Diagnoses After Team’s Loss At BJK Finals
Former top 30 player and captain of the Italian Billie Jean King Cup team Tathiana Garbin has publically announced that she is battling a serious health issue.
Just hours after her team lost to Canada in the Billie Jean King Cup final in Seville on Sunday, the 46-year-old issued a statement confirming that she is undergoing treatment for a rare tumor that has been found in her stomach. Garbin had her first surgery in October but will have to undergo further procedures in the coming weeks.
“I really wish to thank my Federation, which has constantly supported me with extraordinary solidarity and sensitivity,” Gabin said in a statement sent to the news agency Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA).
“Seville was a very important event for me, and I absolutely didn’t want to miss it despite being very close to my operation: the Federation has shown they placed full trust in me. There is nothing that makes me prouder than representing the colors of Italy. “
Gabin says she hopes to raise awareness of medical research and prevention by going public about her condition, as well as hoping to inspire others with her story. She is being treated by Professor Di Candio and Professor Morelli at the Cisanello Hospital in Pisa.
“I thank my BJ King Cup girls, who have shown me incredible love and support. Their presence and support have been a beacon of positivity in these difficult days,” she said in tribute to her team.
“However, I would like to inform you that I will have to undergo a second surgery, required by the treatment planned by the doctors. Thanks to the rapid recovery I have experienced, I am optimistic about being back on court.”
As a player, Garbin peaked at a ranking high of No.22 in singles and No.25 in doubles. Her sole singles title on the WTA Tour occurred in 2000 when she won the Budapest Open in Hungary. Seven years after that, she reached the fourth round of the French Open in what was her best-ever run at a major event.
Garbin has served as Italy’s Billie Jean King Cup captain since 2016.
Doubles Delight: Great Britain Ousts France 2-1 In Davis Cup Classic
Great Britain has won the last spot in the Davis Cup finals by prevailing in a highly dramatic clash against France in front of a record crowd in Manchester.
With the must-win showdown level at 1-1, the tie was decided by a rollercoaster doubles match with Dan Evans and Neil Skupski battling their way past Nicolas Mahut and Édouard Roger-Vasselin 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(6). In what was one of the most tense matches ever involving the British team, four match points were saved by the hosts. Evans fended off three whilst serving 4-5 down in the decider before Skupski saved one when he was serving two games later. To add to the drama, in the decisive tiebreaker Britain lost a mini-break advantage twice before prevailing on their second match point.
“I don’t know how we’ve won that fight, sheer fight. Incredible effort from Dan to come out and win this match with me,” said Skupski.
“The first set wasn’t too good. We regrouped, took a toilet [break] and fought as hard as we could. Dan saving three points in the third set. The rest is history and we’re off to Malaga.”
The triumph caps off what has been a marathon day at The AO Arena with all three matches going the full distance. A total of more than 13,000 seats was sold for the tie which is a record for a single day of Davis Cup action in the UK.
Earlier in the day, Evans got Britain off to a perfect start by fighting back from a set and a break down to beat Arthur Fils 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, in what was a close fight. At the end of the encounter, there was a tense exchange between the two which continued during the doubles match with Evans seen making gestures towards the Frenchman who was watching from the stands.
France’s sole victor was Ugo Humbert who beat former Wimbledon semi-finalist Cameron Norrie 7-6(5),3-6, 7-5. A new confidence blow to the British No.1 who has only won back-to-back matches in one out of his past five tournaments.
“The team is amazing. We get on very well. Everyone’s played a part. It’s all those guys and girls standing there (in the stands) who are amazing.” Captain Leon Smith commented.
Britain joins Australia in qualifying from Group B to November’s finals which will be held in Malaga. The team has won all three of their ties played in Manchester with their previous wins being over Australia and Switzerland earlier in the week.
In total, eight teams have secured their place in the finals. Group stages have also been held in Spain, Croatia and Italy with the top two nations from each of those events progressing.
Britain is seeking to win the Davis Cup title for only the second time in the Open Era after 2015.
List of teams through to the knockout stages in Malaga
- Great Britain
- Czech Republic
Australia Ousts Great Britain In Thriller To Reach BJK Cup Final
The host nation narrowly missed out on a place in the final but they have plenty of positives to motivate them for the future.
Australia has denied Great Britain an opportunity to play in their first team final since 1981 after prevailing 2-1 in an epic tussle at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow.
The gripping tie was level at 1-1 after each team won one of the singles matches, paving the way for a winner-takes-all doubles encounter. The British team featured Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls who were both making their debut in the competition this week. Their opponents were former Grand Slam winner Sam Stosur and world No.10 doubles player Storm Sanders.
Despite the gap in experience between the two pairings, there was almost nothing to distinguish between the two throughout the majority of their encounter which lasted more than two hours. Nevertheless, the Australian duo held their nerve to seal a 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 10-6, victory to send them into the final.
“That was amazing. it could have gone either way and credit to the GB girls they played really well. They will be here again for sure.” Sanders said during her on-court interview.
It is only the second time in the past 30 years that Australia has progressed to the final after 2019. Before playing Great Britain, they also defeated Belgium and Slovakia in the group stages.
“A real credit to the four players out on court that was pretty inspirational, so I hope it inspires a lot more of you out there to play doubles. It was really such a high level you couldn’t pick it in the end.” Australian captain Alicia Molik commented on the doubles match.
Earlier in the day, Australia got off to the perfect start with Sanders edging her way past Heather Watson 6-4, 7-6(3). However, the host nation battled back with an impressive performance from Harriet Dart who defeated Ajla Tomljanović 7-6(3), 6-2. A player who has reached the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open this year.
“The Billie Jean King Cup just brings the best out of me. I love playing in front of a home crowd, and I feel like I have really been feeding off my teammates and everyone here. It just makes me really want to do really well.” Said Dart.
The performances from the underdogs provide Britain with plenty of hope for the future. The nation lost in qualifying earlier this year but managed to enter the finals via wildcard due to the competition being held in their country.
“I’m just gutted for everyone right now but also I think we have to try and keep things in perspective,” British captain Keothavong told reporters.
“What a fantastic week it has been for the team. I don’t know how many people gave us much of a chance really to even come through the group stages.’
“It really is a fantastic achievement to reach the semifinals but we felt we could have gone further. That’s why it hurts so much.
“It’s going to hurt the players for a while but they’ll (the team) get over it. They can still hold their heads high because they have shown what they are capable of under a huge amount of pressure to deliver, and in the end, it came down to a few points.”
Australia will next play either Switzerland or the Czech Republic in the final. They are seeking to win the trophy for the first time since 1974.
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