Glasgow | Spain lines up Britain in BJK Cup Final group action as Mertens flies in

Day 2 at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Glasgow saw Spain see off Kazakstan, 3-0, USA beat Poland, 2-1, Switzerland defeat Italy, 3-0, and Slovakia edge past Belgium, 2-1, during an action-packed Wednesday at the Emirates Arena.

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. Elise Mertens

Paula Badosa, the World No 13, made her BJK Cup debut for Spain by battling past Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, 6-2 3-6 6-4, in a Pool C tie, giving her team the chance to advance into the semi-finals if they win over Great Britain on Thursday.

“It was my first time and, I think, I enjoyed every minute on court,” said Badosa after giving Spain an unassailable 2-0 lead in the tie.

Earlier, Nuria Parrizas Diaz had edged Spain ahead with a 6-4 2-6 7-6(5) win over Yulia Putintseva while, in the doubles rubber, Badosa & Aliona Bolsova sealed the tie by beating Anna Danilina & Putintseva, 6-4 6-2.

In a late Pool D match on Wednesday, Coco Gauff & Caty McNally beat Magda Linette & Alicja Rosolska, 6-1 6-2, to earn the United States their 2-1 win over Poland, who are without World No 1 Iga Swiatek.

The Americans had rested Gauff, their top player, in the singles after she played at the WTA Finals in Forth Worth, Texas last week, and the two teams were level before the decisive doubles match, Danielle Collins scoring an opening win over Magdalena Frech, 6-4 3-6 7-6(2), that was then cancelled out by Linette’s defeat of Madison Keys, 6-4 4-6 6-2.

Collins’ match began about 2 hours later than scheduled after some long matches earlier in the day, and the decisive doubles match finished after 12.30 am on Thursday.

McNally said team captain Kathy Rinaldi had told them to enjoy the occasion: “Kathy kept reminding us to have fun,” she said. “That’s the most important thing for both us, just to enjoy it.”

Gauff, who played in both singles and doubles in Fort Worth last week, lost all 6 of her matches, and has extra motivation to play well in Glasgow.

“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.

“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.’’

Elise Mertens (R) arrived from Fort Worth late on Tuesday and won the doubles rubber against Slovakia with Kirsten Flipkens on Wednesday in Glasgow

© Laurie Dieffembacq/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

Another player who was determined to represent her country here in Glasgow is Elise Mertens, who won the doubles title at the WTA Finals on Monday night with her Russian partner Veronika Kudermetova to become the first player from Belgium to win the Martina Navratilova trophy at the season-ending championships.

She had no time to celebrate, though, ahead of her mad dash to the airport from where the 26-year-old took 3 flights to join her team, arriving in Glasgow at 9.47pm on Tuesday night.

She still managed to play her doubles match on Wednesday alongside Kirsten Flipkens, winning 6-0 6-3 over Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova & Tereza Mihalikova.

“I would be frustrated if I lost, but we won, so this is all good,” Mertens said 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.”

Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova sealed the win over Belgium when she beat Maryna Zanevska in 3 sets on Wednesday

© Laurie Dieffembacq/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

The short turnaround between the WTA Finals and the Billie Jean King Cup has been criticised by many, including Swiatek who opted out of playing for Poland at the team event, posting on Instagram that the ITF and WTA were placing players at risk of injury by scheduling the two event so close together.

During an interview with Reuters last month, President David Haggerty said the ITF is working with the WTA to ensure there is a ‘better transition between the two competitions’ next season.

The exact dates for 2023, however, are still to be confirmed as negotiations concerning the venue of next year’s WTA Finals continue.

Meanwhile, Belgium went down to Slovakia despite Mertens’ efforts, as Kuzmova had beaten Ysaline Bonaventure, 6-2 7-6(7) in the opening rubber, which was followed up by Anna Karolina Schmiedlova’s 5-7 6-2 6-3 win over Maryna Zanevska.

Kuzmova saved triple set point serving at 5-6 in the second set before beating Bonaventure, and then Schmiedlova emerged on top of her 2-hour, 36-minute thriller over Zanevska, coming from an early break down in the third set.

“Definitely was a really difficult match, especially for my head,” said Schmiedlova afterwards. “I was really nervous, and I’m extremely happy that I won today because it’s the first time I’ve won a match at the Billie Jean King Cup.

“It’s probably one of the most important wins of my career.”

Having taken a a tough loss to Australia on Tuesday, Slovakia have bounced back to get their campaign back on track in Pool B, which will conclude on Thursday when Belgium take on Australia, with all 3 teams still potentially able to win the group and advance to the semi-finals.

Team Switzerland are contenders for the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup title after a convincing 3-0 win over Italy on Wednesday in Glasgow

© Ian MacNicol/Getty Images for LTA

Elsewhere, in Pool A, Olympic champion Belinda Bencic led Switzerland to victory over Italy in their opening tie, the World No 12 efficiently seeing off Jasmine Paolini, 7-5 6-3, to secure the tie for Switzerland after Jil Teichmann saved a match point en route to her thrilling 6-3 4-6 7-6(5) win over Elisabetta Cocciaretto.

Teichmann emerged on top of their enthralling 3-hour, 7-minute tussle in a match full of turning points and unpredictable swings.

The Swiss’ all-court game had been in full flow as she took a 6-3, 4-2 lead, but Cocciaretto raised her aggression levels to storm back to take 6 games in a row.

The Italian sealed the second set with a spectacular running forehand pass, then carried her form to take an iron grip of the decider.

A heavy forehand brought her up a match point at 5-2, but Teichmann fended it off with a service winner before capturing 4 straight games herself.

Like Cocciaretto, Teichmann was unable to serve out the win at 6-5, but she regrouped to seal her 3rd match point in the ensuing tiebreak as a the Italian sent a forehand long.

“It was a very very intense match, a very good fight,” said Teichmann afterwards. “It was just about the fight, the resilience.”

After Bencic, the Swiss No 1, wrapped up her country’s win over Paolini, the two joined forces to defeat Paolini & Martina Trevisan, 7-6(5) 6-1, and complete the 3-0 sweep.

Italy will seek to bounce back on Day 3 when they take on Canada in the second Pool A tie.

The competition, formerly called the Fed Cup, was renamed in honour of the 12-times Grand Slam champion and restructured into a format concluding with 12 nations competing over one week for the title. The group winners will advance to the semi-finals on Saturday, with the final on Sunday.

Click HERE to view the full Billie Jean King Cup Finals draw.

Billie Jean King meets Team GB at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow

© Ian MacNicol/Getty Images for LTA

Billie Jean King Cup group-stage standings

Pool A

  1. Switzerland, 1-0
  2. Canada, 0-0
  3. Italy, 0-1

Pool B

  1. Australia, 1-0
  2. Slovakia, 1-1
  3. Belgium, 0-1

Pool C

  1. Spain, 1-0
  2. Kazakhstan, 1-1
  3. Great Britain, 0-1

Pool D

  1. United States, 1-0
  2. Czech Republic, 0-1
  3. Poland, 0-1



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