London | 12-nation BJK Cup Finals line-up confirmed

World No 1 Iga Swiatek booked Poland’s place in the Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals with a 6-4 6-3 win over Swiss teenager Celine Naef on Saturday, securing the spot in Seville for a 3rd consecutive year.

I’m super happy and proud of everybody. It’s been a really fun week so I’m happy that this time I could lead my team to be in the Finals. Hopefully we’re going to finish it in November, but I’m super proud of what we achieved for these two days and now we’ll have fun in doubles. Iga Swiatek

2022 title winners Switzerland, who were without their top two players, Viktorija Golubic and Belinda Bencic, will compete in the Play-offs.

“I’m super happy and proud of everybody,” Swiatek said. “It’s been a really fun week so I’m happy that this time I could lead my team to be in the Finals.

“Hopefully we’re going to finish it in November, but I’m super proud of what we achieved for these two days and now we’ll have fun in doubles.”

Swiatek’s win over a tenacious Naef sealed her 7th consecutive BJK Cup match win, but she didn’t have it all her own way, especially in the second set.

“I feel like my focus went down a little bit, rookie mistake, and Celine, for sure, used it,” Swiatek admitted. “We are playing against good players, you can’t really have these moments, but I knew that I can refocus again, and find my discipline, so at the end I did that and I’m happy.

“I think she has a big talent,” Swiatek added of Naef. “And she has the potential to play well on the WTA Tour.”

Swiss captain Heinz Gunthardt echoed that sentiment about the whole team: “They are very young so I believe this is a team that can grow and it could happen reasonably quickly,” he said. “Within one year we might even achieve a completely different level, which you need if you really want to compete in the Billie Jean King Cup at the highest level.

“There is no question about it, these are the best teams in the world and I believe we have the potential to be one of the best teams in the world with the girls that are sitting here.”

The second singles between Magdalena Frech and Simona Waltert was not played, but Poland made it a clean sweep in Biel when Maja Chwalinska & Katarzyna Kawa secured a 7-5 6-1 win over Jil Teichmann & Waltert in the doubles.

Team USA pose after qualifying for the Billie Jean King Cup Finals with a 4-0 win over Belgium

© Rich Storry/Getty Images for ITF

In Florida, USA swept past Belgium, 4-0, after a ruthless Jessica Pegula sealed her nation’s place in November’s Finals with a 6-2 6-0 win over Hanne Vandewinkel.

The World No 5 barely broke a sweat as she made amends for her slow start to Friday’s singles match on a beautifully sunny day in Orlando.

The American raced to a 4-0 lead in the opening set as Vandewinkel’s efforts against Emma Navarro late on Friday night seemed to be taking their toll, and it was pretty much one-way traffic.

Pegula hit 21 winners en route to more than twice as many points as her opponent, earning praise from her new captain Lindsay Davenport, who took over from Kathy Rinaldi this season.

“We had an amazing week together,” said Davenport. “These ladies taught me the most. Last night, to see the way they fought, they had some tough conditions.

“At 6-2 5-0 today, I told Jess ‘this a lot more enjoyable!’ I think everybody here can see the level that Jess is capable of.”

With the tie decided, USA have booked their place in the year-end Finals in Seville, while Belgium heads to the Play-offs.

In the dead doubles match, Caroline Dolehide & Taylor Townsend defeated Marie Benoit & Kimberley Zimmerman, 6-3 6-1, to complete a perfect 4-0 win for USA.

Team Japan pose as they celebrate qualification for the Finals on Day 2 of Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier between Japan and Kazakhstan in Tokyo

© Kenta Harada/Getty Images

Japan made history by defeating Kazakhstan, 3-1, when heroine Nao Hibino sealed their Finals slot for the first time with an unassailable 3-0 lead in Tokyo.

Singles wins for Hibino and 4-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka on Day 1 gave the hosts the impetus on Saturday.

The presence of Osaka, who is playing her first Billie Jean King Cup tie since February 2020, has undoubtedly given Japan, who were BJK Cup semi-finalists in 1996, a different dimension and extra buoyancy.

On this occasion, though, the former World No 1 was not needed as Hibino stole the plaudits by dispatching Yulia Putintseva, 6-4 3-6 7-6(7).

She trailed 5-1 and 6-2 in the tiebreak, saving 4 match points, but hauled herself off the deck to deal a knock-out blow, snuffing out any hopes Kazakhstan had of mounting a come-back.

“I played with Putintseva at Hobart this year and I lost in straight sets, and I was not sure what kind of a match it will be today,” Hibino admitted. “But it is a team competition with the spectators cheering for you and just knowing that there are Naomi, Shuko [Aoyama] and Ena [Shibihara] behind me gave me courage to play today’s match.

“In the end, I was empowered by the energy of the spectators and fight til the end.”

There was some consolation for Kazakhstan, however, in the dead doubles, as Anna Danilina & Zhibek Kulambayeva overcame Ena Shibahara & Shuko Aoyama 7-6(7) 3-6(9).

Team Romania came from 0-2 down to defeat Ukraine and qualify for the Billie Jean King Cup Finals at Amelia Island on Saturday in Fernandina Beach, Florida

© James Gilbert/Getty Images for ITF

The 12-nation line-up for this year’s Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals now is confirmed following the completion of the 8 Qualifier ties.

Both Japan and Romania have qualified for the Finals for the first time after their wins over Kazakhstan and Ukraine respectively.

Having missed out on the Finals last year due to Slovenia’s come-back, it was only fitting that Romania upset the odds themselves from 0-2 down against Ukraine, winning 3-2.

Defeat in both singles matches on the opening day left Romania needing to win all 3 matches on Saturday, but Ana Bogdan and Jaqueline Cristian rose to the occasion in remarkable fashion.

First, Bogdan outlasted Elina Svitolina, 6-4 4-6 6-4, before Cristian came back to beat Lesia Tsurenko, 2-6 6-4 6-4, to level the tie, and the pair then teamed up in doubles to defeat Ukrainian twins Lyudmyla & Nadiia Kichenok, 6-2 7-6(7), completing the most extraordinary day.

It marks just the 9th time in Billie Jean King Cup history that a team has come back from 0-2 down to win since the best of five format was adopted in 1995.

“We’re going to party hard tonight, and then we’re going to prepare for Seville”, said Captain Horia Tecau during the on-court celebrations, capturing the mood of the team perfectly.

Due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the tie was staged by the Elina Svitolina Foundation on the green clay of Amelia Island in Florida.

The Australian team captained by Sam Stosur celebrate their win over Mexico in Brisbane as they advance to the Finals of the Billie Jean King Cup

© Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

The 8 winners from the Qualifiers this weekend join 2023 champions Canada, 2023 runners-up Italy, hosts Spain and wild-cards Czechia in Seville at the end of the year.

New captain Sam Stosur led Australia to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Mexico to ensure the Aussies are through to the Finals for a 4th straight year.

They were the first to qualify after rookie Taylah Preston defeated Marcela Zacarias to propel her nation into an unassailable lead.

On her BJK Cup debut, the Perth teenager prevailed 6-1 6-1 at the Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane to build on the singles victories of Arina Rodionova and Daria Saville on Day 1 of the tie.

Further gloss was then added to the scoreline by Saville & Ellen Perez as they joined forces to dispatch Mexican duo Jessica Hinojosa Gomes & Maria Fernanda Navarro, 6-3 6-1, in the doubles.

“It was very special to wear the green and gold and win the tie for Australia,” said 18-year old Preston, who made her Grand Slam debut at January’s Australian Open. “Hopefully it is not the last time and I get to wear it.

“I was more nervous this morning than I usually am as I am playing for far more than just myself in these ties – I am playing for my team and my country – and I don’t want to let the team down. There were a lot of ‘what ifs’ going on.

“But the girls were super-supportive, saying ‘you’ll be fine’ and ‘you deserve this’, so that was comforting and really nice. Walking on the court my stomach was doing weird things, but after a couple of games I loosened up.”

Great Britain made the semi-finals in 2022, the year they hosted the Finals in Glasgow, and with Katie Boulter and Emma Raducanu looking at their best this weekend with a 3-1 win against France, they could prove a handful in Spain.

Germany are back in the Finals for a 3rd time, having beaten hosts Brazil 3-1, after Laura Siegemund survived yet another epic encounter at the Ginasio Ibirapuera to defeat Carolina Alves, 6-1 2-6 6-3.

In front of a fantastic home crowd, Brazil came close to forcing a decisive 5th match, but ultimately Siegemund’s experience prevailed against a lower-ranked opponent.

The last Finals slot falls to Slovakia, 4-0 winners over Slovenia, after 16-year old Renata Jamrichova, the Junior World No 1 and 2024 Australian Open junior champion, beat Veronika Erjavec, ranked 203, 6-2 6-0.

Anna Schmiedlova had handed Slovakia the perfect start on Friday, taking a 6-4 6-3 win against Ela Nala Milic before Viktoria Hruncakova beat Erjavec, 6-1 5-7 6-3, overcoming a wobble as she closed in on victory at the end of the second set.

Slovakia made it a clean sweep of matches when Hruncakova & Tereza Mihalikova secured a 6-1 2-6 [10-6] win over Pia Lovric & Milic in the dead doubles.



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