Ash Barty and Kristina Mladenovic produced dominant displays to keep Australia and France level at the end of day one of the Fed Cup Final.
In front of a sold-out RAC Arena in Perth, Australia were bidding for their first Fed Cup title since 1974 as they took on a reunited French team.
However their bid got off to the worst possible start as a nervy Ajla Tomljanovic was stunned by Kristina Mladenovic in 72 minutes.
Hitting 16 winners, the world number 40 pummelled her way past Tomljanovic to hand the visitors the early advantage.
Though the Australian debutant showed moments of brilliance, they were in patches as Mladenovic produced a stunning performance for the French team.
After the match, the doubles grand slam champion admitted she played the perfect match, “I really did almost a perfect match, I was really in the zone,” Mladenovic said in her on-court interview.
“I love these kind of events — the more the pressure it is, the bigger the pressure it is, the more special is the event. I came out there and I just wanted to win, basically.”
As France held the early lead, the pressure was on world number one Ash Barty to deliver and deliver she did in an equally impressive performance.
A 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Caroline Garcia was exactly what Australia ordered as Barty was ruthless in her dismantling of the French number two.
Eight aces helped Barty power past the world number 45 and the 40 degree temperatures as a mix of variety as well as power was evidence why every rubber the hosts of win this year has involved Barty.
After the 56 minute win the world number one explained how she executed her game-plan, “I think just overall today I executed very well. I made Caro pretty uncomfortable,” Barty said.
“I felt like in the first three or four of my service games I was in control of a lot of the points, and Caro is a player who like court position, she likes to be up in the court. So that was a key factor for me today. And that’s probably the best I’ve returned in a long long time.”
It is now 15 wins in a row for Barty in Fed Cup as she takes on Kristina Mladenovic in a crucial third rubber tomorrow.
Then Caroline Garcia is scheduled to take on Ajla Tomljanovic although both teams could be set to make changes depending on the scenario.
Should the two nations split the singles again then the deciding doubles will see Ash Barty and Sam Stosur take on Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.
Play begins from 3am GMT time tomorrow, in what will be the last day of a traditional Fed Cup Final before the re-formatted version begins next year.
Great Britain To Play Billie Jean King Cup Finals After Glasgow Picked As Host Nation
The UK will stage the finale of the women’s biggest team tennis event for the first time in over 30 years.
The International Tennis Federation has selected Glasgow as the host nation of this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals following a successful bid from the British LTA.
A total of 12 nations will participate in the six-day event which will be held between November 8-13 at the Emirates Arena. A facility originally built for the 2014 Commonwealth Games that has since staged various events, including Davis Cup ties. It has a seating capacity of roughly just over 8000 people. This year’s finals will be held on indoor hardcourts.
It is only the fourth time Britain has staged the finals of the tournament which was previously known as the Fed Cup. It was previously held in London 1963, Eastbourne 1977 and Nottingham 1991.
“We are delighted to be bringing the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Finals to Glasgow. The LTA presented a very impressive bid as part of a competitive hosting process. They have successfully hosted Davis Cup ties in Glasgow, and we look forward to having the women’s World Cup of Tennis take place in front of passionate tennis fans from around the world in an electric atmosphere, at the culmination of the women’s tennis season.” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement.
Great Britain automatically qualifies for the final as they are the hosts. They will be joined by Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, Switzerland and USA. The format of the round-robin event will see the teams split into four groups of three. The will of each group will then progress to the knockout stages.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to build the profile of women’s tennis and focus attention on women’s sport. The entire team are very excited about playing in front of a home crowd and hearing some loud support across the whole week.” British captain Anne Keothavong commented.
The Russian Tennis Federation won the tournament last year but they will not be allowed to participate this year. Russian and Belarussian teams have been suspended from taking part in ITF team events as the result of the Ukraine war. Russia launched a ‘special military’ operation on February 24th and Belarus is suspected of supporting them.
The draw for the Billie Jean King Cup finals will take place at a later date.
Emma Raducanu Believes Clay Could Be ‘One Of Her Strongest’ Surfaces
The world No.12 is yet to play a Tour event on the clay but she has high hopes for the future.
US Open champion Emma Raducanu may still be relatively new to the WTA Tour but she believes the upcoming clay swing could help provide her with the foundations to shine on the surface.
Raducanu, who made her WTA debut last June, is yet to play a Tour event on the clay. In fact, she has never played a senior event of any kind on the surface. However, during her junior event she played in nine clay tournaments between 2016-2018, including the 2018 girls French Open where she lost in the second round to Denmark’s Clara Tauson.
Despite her lack of experience, the Brit remains confident that she will be able to thrive on the surface. Speaking to reporters ahead of her country’s Billie Jean Cup tie with the Czech Republic, which will take place on clay, Raducanu believes her love for sliding on the court will help her in the coming years.
“I feel this could be one of my strongest surfaces going forward but of course it’s early days right now,” she said.
“I feel like I have got a lot more potential physically. And I do enjoy sliding. So, after spending more time on this surface, I’m sure I’ll time it better and learn more about the surface but also just the time that the clay brings. I feel like I can really use it and play aggressive.”
Since her breakthrough run at the US Open last September, Raducanu has struggled to maintain her form with a series of disappointing results. So far this season the rising star has managed to win just two out of seven matches played. Four out of her five losses were to players ranked outside the world’s top 50.
Part of the problem for the 19-year-old has been her own body. She has suffered from a hip injury which forced her to retire from a match in Mexico earlier this year and has also been hindered by blisters. Furthermore, Raducanu revealed that she has also lost all of her toenails. Prompting British team captain Anne Keothavong to joke that everybody is ‘a little bit scared’ by her toes.
“I have no toenails,” Raducanu stated.
“It was just my foot, my shoes, they’ve just been sliding around a lot [in the shoe].
“I had a small niggle in Miami but now I have no physical thing.”
Raducanu will be hoping to lead her country to victory in their Billie Jean King Cup tie which will be held in Prague. It will be the first time she has ever played in the event.
“I love playing as a team, especially the team we’ve got here,” she said.
“I feel like everyone has been a lot of fun and there’s been a great connection off court, whether that’s playing murder mystery games or cornhole, we’re definitely bonding and gelling very well.”
Raducanu is the only top 20 player participating in the tie.
Great Britain Handed Tough Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers Draw Against Czech Republic
Great Britain have a tough test in the Czech Republic in the BJK Cup qualifiers in April.
Great Britain will need to beat the Czech Republic away if they want to qualify for next year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals after the draw was made today.
Anne Keothavong’s team beat Mexico earlier in the year to earn a place in the qualifiers next year.
However in today’s draw, Great Britain will need to overcome a huge test as they will go to the Czech Republic next April.
Czech Republic have won six of the last nine Billie Jean King Cups and boast the likes of Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Krejcikova, Marketa Vondrousova, Katarina Siniakova and Petra Kvitova.
Speaking after the draw Keothavong is looking forward to the test that awaits them in April, “The team are really looking forward to taking on Czech Republic in our 2022 qualifier and hopefully continuing our momentum in the Billie Jean King Cup next year,” she told skysports.com.
The Czechs are currently hosting this year’s finals and fell at the semi-final stage after losing a tight match to Switzerland.
Other key matches sees a repeat of this year’s group stage match between Belgium and Belarus while USA will host Elina Svitolina’s Ukraine team.
Here are the ties with the qualifiers taking place on the 15-16th of April next year with the finals happening next November:
Czech Republic v Great Britain
Australia v Slovakia
France v Italy
USA v Ukraine
Belarus v Belgium
Germany v Kazakhstan
Canada v Latvia
Spain v Netherlands
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