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.
Great Britain Looking To Overcome ‘Experienced’ Australia In Billie Jean King Cup Semis
Great Britain will play their first Billie Jean King Cup semi-final for 40 years when they play Australia on Saturday.
Great Britain plays their first Billie Jean King Cup semi-final for 40 years when they face Australia in the last four in Glasgow on Saturday.
It was a heroic effort from Great Britain on Thursday as they battled past Spain to reach the last four at the Billie Jean King Cup.
Having lost to Kazakhstan 2-1 in their opening match, they knew they had to beat Spain 3-0 to qualify for the semi-finals.
But step up Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and the doubles team of Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett, as they pulled off a massive upset to seal a place in the semi-finals.
Speaking after the win against Spain, Great Britain’s captain Anne Keothavong praised the doubles pairing of Barnett and Nicholls, “It’s down to their doubles win on Tuesday night (in a 2-1 loss to Kazakhstan) that kept us in this competition,” Keothavong was quoted by tennis365 as saying.
“I think if you watch that match, it’s hard not to feel the joy and the camaraderie between the players. It really truly was infectious.
“I think also Liv and Liss bring something different to the team which we haven’t had before. It’s not just the fact that they specialise in doubles but they have had a life outside of tennis.”
Now Great Britain look to repeat the success of the 1981 side as they look to beat Australia and reach the final.
It will be no easy task though with an in-form Ajla Tomljanovic, Ellen Perez, Storm Sanders and Sam Stosur standing in their way.
Keothavong admitted it will be a tough match but also noted that momentum is on Great Britain’s side, “They are a tough team,” Britain’s captain admitted.
“They are a team with plenty of experience in this competition. But look, we have to believe, and we’re on a high at the moment.”
That semi-final is the first semi-final before reigning champions Switzerland face the Czech Republic at 16:00 GMT.
‘Sky’s The Limit’ – Great Britain Storm Into First Billie Jean King Cup Semis In Over 40 Years
The underdogs have exceeded expectations in front of their home fans in Glasgow.
British captain Anne Keothavong said it was ‘wonderful’ to watch her team pull off a sensational 3-0 win over Spain at the Billie Jean King Cup on Thursday.
After suffering a loss to Kazakhstan earlier in the week, team GB entered their latest tie knowing they have to win all three of their matches without dropping a set if they want to progress to the semi-final stages. Despite having the odds against them, they managed to surge to victory.
Heather Wason thrashed Nuria Perrizas 6-0, 6-2, who is ranked 50 places higher than her in the WTA standings. Then Harriet Dart stunned world No.13 Paula Badosa 6-3, 6-4, in just over 90 minutes. To put that victory into perspective, Dart has only beaten one top-10 player in her career, which was Daria Kasatkina at the US Open earlier this year.
“I’m just so proud to represent my country, to be able to also perform on home soil in front of a home crowd. Doesn’t get more special than that,” Hart told reporters afterwards.
“My goal was to make it as tough as possible out there for her, and I felt like I executed my game plan really well. I knew that all the pressure was on them because on paper she’s meant to beat me easily.”
On the verge of booking a place in the semi-finals, the tie came down to the doubles match. Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls only found out they were playing in the competition for the first time in their careers last week. Despite their inexperience, the duo managed to pull off a shock 7-6(5), 6-2, win over Aliona Bolsova and Rebeka Masarova.
“The sky’s the limit after what we have shown so far,” said Nicholls. “We were definitely underdogs in this group. No doubt about it.
“Both the singles girls, Harriet and Heather, getting unbelievable wins. We have shown what we can do on the doubles court at well. I don’t see there are any players or teams here that we shouldn’t walk onto court thinking we can’t beat. We will just keep going.”
The triumph makes it the first time Britain has reached the semi-finals since 1981 when the event was called the Federation Cup. Britain, who are currently ranked 17th in the team standings, only managed to qualify for the finals due to being the host nation.
“It sure is (historic) – this is something really special,” said Keothavong.
“I’m just so proud of this team. Every single player on the team has done us proud, the team spirit has been high, and I just want to thank everyone who has come to support the British team here. It really makes the difference and we really appreciate the support.
“We want to put women’s sport and tennis on the map and the support you give us is helping us to create amazing memories.”
Britain will next take on Australia who coincidentally was the country they faced the last time they reached the semi-finals more than 40 years ago. Australia, which is headed by top-40 player Ajla Tomljanović, has topped their group following a 3-0 win over Belgium and a 2-1 win over Slovakia.
“We are not here to participate – we are here to try and win this event,” said team member Storm Saunders.
“Everyone on the team, it’s a priority for us to win. So, semi-finals is, yeah, a good step but we’re here for more.”
Britain is seeking to win the title for the first time in history and Australia is aiming to claim their first since 1974.
Elise Mertens’ Epic Journey To Play At The Billie Jean King Cup
It is hard to fault Elise Mertens’ commitment to her country after what has been a chaotic past three days, to say the least.
On Monday the Belgian was battling on court at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth where she and partner Veronika Kudermetova prevailed in a tense encounter to lift the title. In doing so she became the first player from her country to win the doubles trophy at the season-ending event. However, Mertens didn’t have much time to celebrate. In fact, whilst conducting her media commitments she was preparing for a mad dash to the airport.
The 26-year-old took a total of three flights in order to join her team at this week’s Billie Jean King Cup. She didn’t arrive in Glasgow until 21:47 local time on Tuesday night but still managed to participate in a doubles match today which she won alongside Kirsten Flipkens.
“I would be frustrated if I lost but we won, so this is all good,” BBC Sport quoted Mertens as saying in her press conference.
“I had my flight at 10pm [from Fort Worth] and I was still doing media at 8:15pm.
“We rushed. I barely showered. We got to the airport at like 8:55pm. They said we had four minutes for the bags. One bag on the scale. Two minutes. Oh, my God.
“My mom and I ran to the gate and we made it. Then three flights, we went to Madrid, went to London, and then to Glasgow.
“It’s been quite a journey.”
The short turnaround between the WTA Finals and the Billie Jean King Cup has been criticized by some players, including Iga Swiatek who confirmed earlier this year that she will not be playing at the team event. In a post on Instagram, the Pole criticized tennis’ governing bodies’ organization of their calendar and warned that having events this close together poses an injury risk to players.
Besides Mertens, Coco Gauff is another player who has opted to play in both events. In a recent telephone interview with The Palm Beach Post, the 18-year-old says she has extra motivation to play in Glasgow following her performance at the WTA Finals. Gauff lost all six matches she played at the tournament.
“It’s definitely a trip, but finishing the year off on this note will be great for me,’’ she said.
“Texas didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. That motivated me even more to come here, Gauff continued. “It’s very rare tennis experiences a team atmosphere. I played other team sports like basketball. That’s the one thing I did miss from playing (basketball). The Billie Jean Cup is what brings you closest to that.’’
During an interview with Reuters last month, ITF CEO David Haggerty said his organization is working with the WTA to ensure there is a ‘better transition between the two competitions’ next season.
The exact dates for 2023 are still to be confirmed as negotiations concerning the venue of next year’s WTA Finals continue.
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