Tennis: BJK Cup Finals to reach US thwart Ukraine rally

PARIS, France – Ukraine came up short in a thrilling comeback bid on Saturday, falling 3-2 to the United States, who booked their spot in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

Trailing 0-2 to start the day, Ukraine had the singles wins from Dayana Yastremska and Katarina Zavatska before pulling level with Asia Muhammad and Jessica Pegula beat Yastremska and Lyudmyla Kichenok in the decisive doubles match 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 .

The final matched capped an emotional week in Asheville, North Carolina, where Ukrainian players acknowledged it was hard to concentrate on the task at hand and the ongoing Russian invasion at home of family and friends.

“I always like to represent my country. But now, at this moment, it’s tough to describe it,” Yastremska said after her 6-3, 6-4 victory over Pegula. “My heart stays at home, but my mind is here.”

At least the Ukrainians had moments to celebrate, including the 46th-ranked Shelby Rogers of the 201st-ranked Zavatska’s 6-3, 6-4 upset at 2-2.

“I was in the zone,” an ecstatic Zavatska said after her first career win over a top-50 player.

The US were the last to clinch their spot in the finals on a day that saw world number one Iga Swiatek of Poland crush Romania’s 324th-ranked Andreea Prisacariu 6-0, 6-0 in 45 minutes to seal victory at Radom.

“Really proud of us,” said Swiatek, who only dropped one of her two singles rubbers this weekend.

“It’s been a long journey. It took us a few years, step by step to progress and qualify finally.”

Poland will be looking to improve on their best-ever performance in the competition – a quarter-final run in 1992 – in the finals.

In Prague, The Czechs secured victory over Britain in a deciding doubles rubber, with Karolina Muchova and Marketa Vondrousova beating Harriet Dart and Katie Swan 6-1, 7-5.

Vondrousova beat US Open champion Emma Raducanu 6-1, 6-1 to give the hosts their first reverse singles.

“The score looks easy but it was a tough match and she was a bit troubled,” said Vondrousova.

Raducanu had dragged Britain back into the tie for her first professional match on Friday with a hard-fought victory over Tereza Martincova, but she struggled on Saturday.

“I have a blister on my foot, it kind of showed up yesterday’s match,” she told the BBC. “It’s completely stopping me from moving, it’s tough to even be able to chase the ball.”

Dart then dragged the British level into some nervous moments as she beat 16-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova 6-0, 5-7, 6-2.

– Kazakhstan qualify –

Elena Rybakina clinched victory over Kazakhstan Germany, winning 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 against Angelique Kerber in Nur-Sultan to take her country to the finals for the first time.

In Sardinia, Camila Giorgi won 12 successive games as she dispatched Harmony Tan of France 6-2, 6-0 to give Italy an unassailable 3-0 advantage.

Tan, ranked 107th in the world, took a hard-hitting Giorgi before a 2-0 lead into the 34th-ranked Alize Cornet and jumped into complete control.

“I’m happy, it was a great match,” Giorgi said. “At the beginning it was a bit difficult, then I fixed my game.”

Since winning the competition for the third time in 2019, France has lost all three ties they have played.

Spain are the only away team to win as Sara Sorribes Tormo sealed their place in the finals by beating Arantxa Rus 6-0, 6-4 in s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.

Daniela Vismane in Vancouver over Leylah Fernandez’s 6-2, 6-1 victory over Latvia in a 3-0 victory over Canada.

The qualifiers will join the finals in Switzerland, Australia, Belgium and Slovakia later this year.

Defending champions Russia and Belarus have been expelled from the competition for the invasion of Ukraine.

© Agence France-Presse

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