Italy and Canada booked their berths in the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup semi-finals following victories on Thursday, with the Italians overcoming Germany and Canada defeating Poland, while the USA dispatched Switzerland to set up a winner-takes-all showdown with Czechia, and Kazakhstan fell to Australia but still retains a chance of reaching the Last 4 when they take on Slovenia on Friday.
It means the world to us. I'm extremely proud to be representing Canada on court. To be in a semi-finals at the World Cup of Tennis, it means that Canada is going up in tennis and that we are producing a lot of great tennis players and that, every single year, we just keep improving, learning from our mistakes and just keep going and wanting the best for the players. Leylah Fernandez
Italy became the first nation into the knock-out semi-finals after beating Germany 3-0 in Group D, while Canada made sure of first place in Group C by winning both singles matches against a Polish side missing World No 1 Iga Swiatek.
The Italians had dispatched France on Wednesday and followed up strongly against Germany with Martina Trevisan securing a hard fought 7-6(6) 6-1 victory over Eva Lys.
Jasmine Paolini, who like Trevisan also won her singles against France, then saw off Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-3 6-2.
“I’m feeling very well for me, and for my team,” Paolini said later. “We did an amazing job today, I think. Great performance. Very happy to be in the semi-final. Saturday is going to be another day. I hope to keep this level.”
Elisabetta Cocciaretto & Lucia Bronzetti made it a clean Italian sweep when they defeated Friedsam & Laura Siegemund, 6-4 6-7(4) [11-9], to move into them semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 2014.
“I think we have to rest tomorrow and be prepared for the next day,” Italy’s captain Tathiana Garbin said. “We’ve reached the semi-final, which was a big goal for us. We have to be happy, but never satisfied.”
In Group C, Canada advanced by beating Poland for its second consecutive victory after defeating host Spain.
18-year old Marina Stakusic enhanced her burgeoning reputation with a 4-6 7-5 6-3 defeat of Magdalena Frech, before World No 35 Leylah Fernandez eased past Magda Linette, 6-2 6-3, taking Canada into semi-finals for the second time in BJK Cup history after making it to the Last 4 in 1988.
Thursday’s tie kicked off with a continuation of the breakthrough week by Stakusic, ranked at a career-high of 258, collecting her second Top 100 win of the event by outlasting the 63rd-ranked Frech.
Frech led 6-4, 4-2 before Stakusic notched 5 of the next 6 games to level affairs at a set apiece.
Stakusic surged on from there, and had double break point for a 5-1 lead in the third set, but Frech held firm, getting out of that game, and then breaking the Canadian to pull back on serve at 4-3.
A rally forehand winner down the line, though, gave Stakusic the break back in the very next game, and she served out the match to complete another eye-opening win.
Fernandez, the 2021 US Open finalist, followed up and clinched the tie by easing past this year’s Australian Open semi-finalist Linette in straight sets.
“It means the world to us,” Fernandez said. “I’m extremely proud to be representing Canada on court. To be in a semi-finals at the World Cup of Tennis, it means that Canada is going up in tennis and that we are producing a lot of great tennis players and that, every single year, we just keep improving, learning from our mistakes and just keep going and wanting the best for the players.
“We just want what the men was able to do, which was win the Davis Cup. For us to win the Billie Jean King Cup would be a dream.”
Meanwhile, Switzerland’s reign as Billie Jean King Cup champions is over after they suffered a second successive loss in Seville on Thursday, this time at the hands of the United States.
The Americans arrived in Andalucia without their two top players, Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula, but still proved too strong for a Swiss side missing Belinda Bencic, who announced last week that she was expecting a baby.
Danielle Collins used her experience to beat youngster Celine Naef, 7-6(4) 6-1, before former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin overcame Viktorija Golubic, 6-3 6-7(1) 7-5, to give her team an unassailable lead in the tie.
Collins was down 1-4 in the first-set tiebreak against the 18-year old, but reeled off the next 6 points, and the second set as well.
Kenin dominated the best part of two sets and was close to a straight-sets win before being dragged into a decider in which 3 match points came and went at 6-5 on her serve, but she kept her cool to finish the job and send the Swiss packing after 2 hours and 54 minutes.
“I was very feisty and eager to get back up the rankings and I definitely feel, like, I’m getting more attention now,” Kenin said. “I definitely feel I deserve it.”
Sterling one-handed backhands by former Wimbledon quarter-finalist Golubic kept her in the hunt, and the Swiss squeaked out the second set after dominating the tiebreak, and although she held a match point of her own at 5-4 in the third set, Kenin triumphed in a lengthy rally to erase that chance, then slammed a forehand winner down the line to hold for 5-5.
The American then broke for a 6-5 lead and served for the match again, seeing 3 more match points slip away as Golubic pulled her from 40-0 to deuce, but Kenin converted her 6th with an error-forcing forehand, clinching the tie and eliminating the Swiss from further contention.
Kathy Rinaldi’s team now face a Group A clash with 11-time champions Czech Republic on Friday to decide who goes through to the weekend’s semi-finals.
The US, who remain unbeaten against Switzerland in the Billie Jean King Cup, winning all 10 ties between the nations, are the most successful nation in the team competition’s history with 18 titles, and are trying to reach the semi-finals for the second time in 3 years.
Rinaldi will be stepping down from her role as USA Captain after this year’s Finals.
“I think what separates Kathy from so many of the coaches, from my experience, is just her care for us as people,” Collins said. “I think her coaching record speaks for itself, and she’s been very successful with the teams over the years, and obviously on the court she had a tremendous amount of success as a player.
“What really stands out to me the most, honestly, is the way she treats all of us and how she’s been true friends to all of us. Whether it’s been through big wins, really tough losses, personal challenges, she has been there for all of us.
“I could go into so many different stories of how she’s always been the first person to pick up the phone if you’re ever in a pinch or need something or just need someone to talk to. I think all of us can speak to that and have had the same experience with Kathy.
“I know in any tough situation, I can look over at Kathy and there is this calming presence about her.”
Last year’s runners-up Australia edged Kazakhstan 2-1 in Group B, although they can no longer qualify for the semi-finals.
With their backs to the wall after losing to Slovenia on Tuesday, Australia went out fighting in what is Captain Alicia Molik’s last tie in charge.
“I’m pretty lucky, pretty fortunate to have experienced a few Finals over the last couple of years,” Molik said. “Women’s tennis in Australia has been, from a team’s perspective, in a really strong position.
“In my tenure in the last 10 years, we went from having a No 4 in the world in Sam Stosur to a No 1 in the world in singles in Ash Barty. Ash started her career and finished her career under my tenure.
We have another No 1 in Storm Sanders [Hunter]. Ellen [Perry] has hit one of the highest points in her doubles career, as well. It’s in an incredibly healthy spot.”
Molik changed her line-up and World No 155 Storm Hunter rewarded her faith by posting a 7-6(2) 6-4 victory over Anna Danilina, ranked a lowly 802nd.
Yulia Putintseva, though, got the Kazakhs back in the tie when she beat Kimberly Birrell, 6-0 7-5, to set up a doubles decider.
Doubles World No 1 Hunter then returned to court alongside Ellen Perez to take on Danilina & Putintseva and, after splitting the opening 2 sets, they held their nerve to win in the match tiebreak, 6-1 4-6 [10-5].
Kazakhstan face Slovenia on Friday with Group B’s top spot and a semi-final place at stake.
The Billie Jean King Cup Finals is offering a record total of $9.6 million in prize money, including $2.4 million to the champions, the ITF announced on Monday, which puts the women on an equivalent level with the men at the Davis Cup Finals.
The runner-up team will earn $1.44 million, while each losing semi-finalist will get $960,000 and teams eliminated in the group stage will receive $480,000.
DAY 3 Results
Group B – Australia defeated Kazakhstan 2-1
- Storm Hunter (AUS) d. Anna Danilina (KAZ) 7-6(2) 6-4
- Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) d. Kimberly Birrell (AUS) 6-0 7-5
- Storm Hunter/Ellen Perez (AUS) d. Anna Danilina/Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-1 4-6 [10-5]
Group D – Italy defeated Germany 3-0
- Martina Trevisan (ITA) d. Eva Lys (GER) 7-6(6) 6-1
- Jasmine Paolini (ITA) d. Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) 6-3 6-2
- Lucia Bronzetti/Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) d. Anna-Lena Friedsam/Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-4 6-7(4) [11-9]
Group A – USA defeated Switzerland 3-0
- Danielle Collins (USA) d. Celine Naef (SUI) 7-6(4) 6-1
- Sofia Kenin (USA) d. Viktorija Golubic (SUI) 6-3 6-7(1) 7-5
- Sloane Stephens/Taylor Townsend (USA) d. Jil Teichmann/Simona Waltert (SUI) 6-1 7-6(3)
Group C – Canada defeated Poland 3-0
- Marina Stakusic (CAN) d. Magdalena Frech (POL) 4-6 7-5 6-3
- Leylah Fernandez (CAN) d. Magda Linette (POL) 6-2 6-3
- Eugenie Bouchard/Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) d. Weronika Falkowska/Katarzyna Kawa (POL) 6-2 6-3
Italy and Canada have secured their places in the semi-finals.
DAY 4 Schedule
- Centre Court, 1000 CET: Group D – France v Germany
- Court 1, 1000 CET: Group B – Kazakhstan v Slovenia
- Centre Court, not before 1600 CET: Group C – Spain v Poland
- Court 1, not before 1600 CET: Group A – Czechia v USA
The players representing each team will be announced one hour prior to the start of each tie.