Billie Jean King Cup Finals Set — Quotes from USA-Belgium tie

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, April 16, 2024

Howdy y’all, and Happy Tennis Tuesday! This past week were the qualifiers for the Billie Jean King Cup finals to figure out which teams will be joining Canada, Czech Republic, Spain and Italy in Seville. Eight teams battled in the best-of-five tie format — four singles points and a decisive doubles rubber, if needed. Normally, if the tie is clinched in three singles victories, the fourth will be scrapped and the doubles match will be played.

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Australia def. Mexico 4-0: Australia was dealt a significant blow when Storm Hunter, the World No. 3 in doubles and getting close to a Top 100 debut in singles, tore her Achilles tendon in practice. Hunter was able to cheer alongside the sidelines, but she will assumingly be out for the rest of the season which also includes the 2024 Paris Olympics. Australia No. 1 kicked things off with a surprise test from Giuliana Olmos — primarily a doubles specialist — but won in three sets to give the Green and Gold an early lead. Daria Saville stepped in Hunter’s place and showed the form that previously got her into the Top 30 by only dropping one game against Marcela Zacarias. Captain Sam Stosur then put in rising star Taylah Preston, who clinched the win with a win over Zazarias before Saville and Ellen Perez completed the weekend with a doubles victory over Jessica Hinojosa Gomes and Maria Fernanda Navarro.

Japan def. Kazakhstan 3-1: Naomi Osaka made her return to BJK Cup action to confirm her eligibility to participate in the Paris Olympics and started things well for Team Japan with a straight-sets win over Yulia Puntintseva. Nao Hibino then lost only one game against Anna Danilina to give the home team a 2-0 advantage. On the second day of play, Hibino secured Japan’s first time in the Finals’ new format with an epic third-set tiebreak win over Putintseva where she saved multiple match points. The Kazakh’s didn’t leave empty as Danilina and Zhibek Kulambayeva upset Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama in a match tiebreaker to finish the weekend.

Poland def. Switzerland 4-0: Switzerland has been one of the most consistent teams in BJKC’s new format, but they won’t be returning to the Finals this year. World No. 1 Iga Swiatek led the action with a win over Simona Waltert before Magdalena Frech won a three-set tussle over Celine Naef. Swiatek continued her fine form to knock out Naef and the Swiss team to seal the victory. In doubles, Maja Chwalinska and Katarzyna Kawa won in straight sets over Jil Teichmann and Waltert.

Slovakia def. Slovenia 4-0: It was a team effort by Slovakia, who saw singles wins by three different players to clinch their berth in Seville. First, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova earned a straight-sets victory over Ela Milic to start the weekend before VIktoria Hrunackova found herself on the right side of a three-setter against Veronika Erjavec. Junior World No. 1 Renata Jamrichova was the hero of the tie when she won her tie against Erjavec, dropping only two games. In doubles, Hrunackova and Tereza Mihalikova needed three sets to down Pia Lovric and Milic.

Great Britain def. France 3-1: Honestly, this is the big upset on the weekend between Great Britain getting the win and the level of Emma Raducanu. Diane Parry gave France the first lead of the weekend dropping only two games to an in-form Katie Boulter. Raducanu then tied things up with a two-hour three-set tussle over Caroline Garcia to set up a showdown on Day 2. Boulter, who only has about two dozen red clay matches in her professional career, defeated Clara Burel to put the Union Jack within one point from victory. Raducanu continued to show some form that she called her best since her 2021 US Open victory with a third-set tiebreak victory over Parry to send her team back to the Finals.

Romania def. Ukraine 3-2: The tie of the weekend happened to be the lone one in neutral ground. Because of the continued war in Ukraine, their tie against Romania was held in Amelia Island, Florida. Lesia Tsurenko started things strong for the “home” team with a three setter over Ana Bogdan before Elina Svitolina defeated Jacqueline Cristian in straights. However, Sunday was all Team Romania. Bogdan upset Svitolina in three hours before Cristian also won a three-setter over Tsurenko. Finally, a tie would be going down to doubles where Bogdan and Cristian upset Nadiia and Lyudmyla Kichenok in two sets to have Romania return to the Finals.

USA def. Belgium 4-0: Also in Florida was the United States’ tie, held at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona. It was Lindsay Davenport’s debut as Team Captain for the Americans, who were playing a Belgian squad missing their top three players — all in the Top 100. Still, they put on a huge fight the first night with both Jessica Pegula and debutant Emma Navarro needing to come back from a set down to beat Sofia Costoulas and Hanne Vandewinkel, respectively. The next day, Pegula dropped only two games against Vandewinkel to seal the win before Taylor Townsend and Caroline Dolehide won a straight setter over Marie Benoit and Kimberly Zimmerman.

Germany def. Brazil 3-1: Brazil had the home crowd and nearly pulled off a decisive doubles rubber, but Germany was extra clutch in singles. Laura Siegemund upset Beatriz Haddad Maia in the lone straight sets singles match before Tatjana Maria won in three over Laura Pigossi. Haddad Maia kept hopes alive with a three-set victory over Anna-Lena Friedsam but Siegemund was the final nail in the coffin with her own three-setter over Carolina Alves.

There were also Group 1 playoffs this past week, with various countries looking to be promoted to the Qualifying playoffs:

Asia/Oceania: China and Korea
Europe: Serbia, Austria, Denmark and Netherlands
Americas: Colombia and Argentina

Onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Aryna Sabalenka is hoping fourth time‘s the charm at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix after she’s fallen in the championship her last three attempts.

Something to keep an eye on is Simona Halep’s interview with Jon Wertheim, where she discusses her doping suspension, the fallout and her comeback. It’s a continuation of the damage control Halep is trying to do, but she calls her suspension reduction the same as being vindicated. Grab some popcorn, fam.

Beth Bellamy won a national championship at USC, had success on the WTA Tour and took on law school and paddle tennis in retirement. However, she’s calls her co-founding of the National Pickleball league for senior players one of her proudest acheivements:

In book news, both Venus Williams and Anett Kontaveit have announced they are releasing their own projects this year.

Zheng Qinwen is the latest player to stop by the WTA Insider podcast, stating that she hasn’t fully found her “swag” just yet.

Iga Swiatek was announced as an ambassador for beauty brand Lancome, becoming their first Polish and female athlete representative.

Serena Williams spoke out about the big movement women’s sports is going through and said she would be interested in owning a WNBA team. Personally, I would love to see her invest in tennis — whether that be in a tournament or in some other capacity, but I’m here for it.

Original 9 member Rosie Casals hosted this year’s Annalee Thurston Award Reception, which was emceed by Tracy Austin. Pam Shriver was among those honored at the ceremony, which raised nearly $100,000 for the Love & Love Tennis Foundation.

Mirra Andreeva returned to action for the first time since the Australian Open, coming back from injury and with Conchita Martinez in her coaching box. This could be a big partnership.

Jessica Bouzas Maneiro is the latest player to make her Top 100 debut, finally making the big jump in this week’s rankings.

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Tweet of the Week

This is just incredible:

Five at The IX: USA vs. Belgium

Q. I’m struck by the amount of leadership we have in American women’s tennis. I think there’s 15 women in the top hundred in singles. Has that occurred do you? Do you feel like you’re in a veteran role now with American women’s tennis? People come to you and ask for advice? Is that a role that you’re playing?

MADISON KEYS: I feel like everyone keeps calling me a veteran on the tour now. I guess I’m just assuming the role. In my brain I’m not, but I guess I have been out here for quite a while and been on Billie Jean King Cup teams.

I am always happy to see all of these young women doing incredibly well. I was very fortunate when I was coming up in the rankings that there was always a great group of women around me, who we really supported each other and helped out.

It was just really nice to also kind of be competing against each other, but helping each other. It was just a really nice environment to start playing on. It’s amazing to see that it seems to be happening that way again.

I am happy to give any advice, if anyone is asking for it. At the same time they’re all doing really well, so I don’t think they need my advice.

But yeah, I think it’s so great. I mean, even like our rookie Emma who’s already doing fantastic. It’s just really nice to see that the future of women’s tennis in the USA is in very good hands.

Q. You’ve talked about the team atmosphere, how much you love that. Are you conscious of the bench? You mentioned it pulled you through. How much does it mean to you to have that support?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, it means a lot. I mean, I love it. I feel like maybe I should have kind of fed off their energy a little bit sooner in the match. I think that would have helped me. I think I came in a little flat. I was even telling Maddie, I didn’t even look at you guys. She was like, You should have looked at us, you should have looked at us.

It was kind of like I was trying to stay focused, but at the same time I felt like I came out of too flat. If I was able to feed off of that a little bit quicker, I would have reacted a little bit better. You’re not used to that when you’re playing singles a lot.

In the past and this week, I’ve honestly always loved a team atmosphere. I feel like it always brings out the best in me, the best competitive side of me.

Yeah, I love it. I think it gives you an extra confidence boost. I love when the guys are there, too. Guys are so much more I don’t know… They talk so much more crap. They’re so much more confident and out front with it.

I always feel like I gain a lot of confidence around especially some of the teams, World TeamTennis, United Cups. We’re mixed a lot with guys. They’ll tell you stuff. You’re like, Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re right. You know what, I am better than this girl. Like your positive inner voice gets a lot more positive and confident.

I don’t think girls are quite as much like that, so it’s nice being able to feed off the guys in that sense.

Q. Yesterday we spoke to Lindsay Davenport and asked if she was surprised by how well you played. She said in 2000 she and Jennifer Capriati came up against a very young Belgian team that had Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin. Look what happened to them. She said you and Sofia showed great promise. Could you talk about all the positives you take away from this weekend.

HANNE VANDEWINKEL: Yeah, I definitely take a lot of positive things away from this weekend. Like I said, it’s my first time against a top 100, especially against top 20 then. I think I showed that on some moments can I play with these kind of girls, yeah, I can compete with them. Sometimes they’re just still too good. We saw that today.

Yesterday I showed when I’m on the top of my game, I can compete with these girls. I think that’s something I didn’t know. Maybe now that I realize it’s possible, I have to improve for sure, but if I keep continue what I’m doing now, that I might have a chance to be there one day.

Q. Jess said you did a good job of keeping her locked in. What were some of the things you were telling them?

CAPTAIN DAVENPORT: It’s been a learning week for me all the way around as I’m trying to figure out just getting to know some other players and figuring out this role. I’m going to stay out of Emma’s way. I was talking to her too much in the first set. I was like, I’m going to back up from this.

Jess I felt like the opposite. She needed to really engage and really kind of get her energy going. There was parts where maybe she was a little hard on herself. We were trying to get her positive. When Jess is positive, she’s moving and trying to get more aggressive. That was able to fire up for her. I think the bench did a great job with getting her ready for that.

Emma, anytime you play your first one, there’s obviously nerves representing your country. She settled down in the second. She won the match herself. I wish I could say I helped, but this was all Emma.

EMMA NAVARRO: No, Lindsay definitely helped.

Q. Lindsay said both of your ladies got better at the bigger moments, and that’s all you can hope for as a captain. Do you agree with that?

CAPTAIN FISSETTE: Yeah, that’s really nice of Lindsay to say. I really agree on that. They brought their best serves on the biggest moments.

I believe in these two girls. I know them since they’re 10 and 11 years old. I’ve seen them making steps to where they are right now. It’s really fun to see their development.

Yeah, I believe that they have the right mindset. They have high goals in their career. They’re working super hard for that. Yeah, they also have the right confidence to go into matches like this and really believe that they can play their best tennis.

That’s what they showed, so I’m super proud of their achievement.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
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Written by Joey Dillon