Switzerland won both singles rubbers to upend 11-time champions Czech Republic in straight sets in the semi-finals of the Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena to continue what has so far been a dominant run this week.
I'm really happy that we get to have this chance again. I think we also kind of work hard for our chances. As Heinz once told me, 'give luck a chance'. We are trying to do exactly that. Hopefully, tomorrow, we will give our best, do absolutely everything we can, and then we'll see if it's going to be enough, but we are happy that we have another chance. Belinda Bencic
Viktorija Golubic defeated Karolína Muchova, 6-4 6-4, before Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic saw off Karolína Pliskova, 6-2 7-6(6).
The Swiss were runners-up a year ago, when they were defeated by a Russian Tennis Federation team, banned this time around because of the war in Ukraine, and will be seeking a first-ever title on Sunday when they meet 7-time champions Australia in the final at 2pm.
Australia defeated Great Britain, 2-1, in the other semi-final on Saturday, and are looking for their first win since 1974.
Golubic got the Swiss off to a good start with her stunning win over Muchova, and Bencic followed to clinch Switzerland’s place in the final by beating Pliskova.
“I’m feeling pretty happy and relieved, and so happy to be in the final again,” Bencic said. “It’s an amazing achievement after last year to be able to prove it again.”
Surprisingly, Switzerland’s win was a rather one-sided affair, and there was no need for doubles rubber, given the lateness of the hour after the lengthy earlier Australia versus Great Britain tie.
For the Czechs, it was a disappointing end to their campaign in Glasgow, given the fact that they had knocked out USA, favourites for the title this week, in such style on Friday night.
The decision to restore Muchova and Pliskova to the singles line-up was an interesting move from their captain Petr Pala, who dispensed with Marketa Vondrousova and Katerina Siniakova despite both hugely impressing during the Czechs’ victory over Kathy Rinaldi’s American team 24 hours earlier.
“They have an extremely good team, because they can switch around any position at any time,” said Swiss captain Heinz Guenthardt. “We were guessing [who they would pick at No 2], that was like a 50/50, Vondrousova or Muchova. But we were going to go with what we had today anyway.”
Pala may have had good reason to be confident about his decision to rest Vondrousova, given that Muchova had defeated Golubic in their recent meeting in Tallinn last month, while Pliskova, although not at her best in Glasgow, had defeated Bencic at the US Open.
Bencic, the reigning Olympic champion, is a force to be reckoned in her country colours, though, and she came out firing.
Pliskova struggled to settle throughout a 30-minute opening set in which she threw in 15 unforced errors.
The Czech began to swing more freely in the second, breaking straight away and holding her advantage through to the 8th game, before Bencic struck back in the 9th.
Somewhat deflated, Pliskova nevertheless fought hard throughout the tiebreak, before the Swiss finally clinched the win on her second match point when the Czech’s reply flew long and, with it, Switzerland’s place in the final.
Golubic had earlier put Bencic in a position to win the tie with another impressive singles victory, backing up her 3-set triumph over Canada’s Bianca Andreescu on Friday with her first over Muchova following defeats in their 2 previous encounters.
She raced to a 3-0 advantage with a double break, and though Muchova salvaged one and had 2 break points for 4-all, Golubic dug her way out of trouble to clinch a 42-minute opening set.
“I had a great start,” Golubic later said. “I had the feeling that in the first two games she wasn’t quite there, and I was really there from the beginning on[wards]. It helps me to have a little bit of a gap.”
Muchova threatened that lead and worked her way into proceedings in the second set, but struggled to assert control as they traded breaks until the 8th game, when Golubic finally consolidated her advantage for 5-3.
She held her nerve, seeing out the win in assured fashion, before handing over to Bencic to seal their place in the final.
“They played to their potential, which is not always easy,” Guenthardt said later. “Every day is different.
“They had very strong opponents. I don’t know why, in the end, it goes this way or that way, like the second-set tiebreak with Belinda, what is it exactly?
“No one knows. Is it trust, is it belief, is it heart? Is it all of the above? Most likely.
“That’s what [Billie Jean King Cup] is all about. You have to find something extra in important moments. So far, so good. We have done exactly that.”
It means Sunday’s title decider will be a showdown between the last two runners-up in the competition, with the Swiss having lost to the Russian Tennis Federation at the inaugural Finals in Prague last year, and Australia falling to France in Perth, under the competition’s previous format, in 2019.
“I’m really happy that we get to have this chance again,” said Bencic. “I think we also kind of work hard for our chances.
“As Heinz once told me, ‘give luck a chance’. We are trying to do exactly that.
“Hopefully, tomorrow, we will give our best, do absolutely everything we can, and then we’ll see if it’s going to be enough, but we are happy that we have another chance.”
Switzerland is bidding to win its first Billie Jean King Cup title, having finished as the runners-up in 2021 and 1998.