The semi-finalists for the Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals were determined on Friday in Seville, Spain, when Slovenia secured their place as the leaders of Group B, despite falling to Kazakhstan 2-1, and Czechia defeated USA later in the day to advance to the Last 4 for the 26th time, while elsewhere there were wins for France and Spain.
Since I started to play Billie Jean King Cup, it's been a really, really long journey from the second Europe/Africa Group. I think I started with Tamara at the same time. So I think just the whole process of slowly climbing up was really important, and also special for both of us. Even that we're here, it's pretty unbelievable. It's the best 12 teams in the world. I don't think any of us dreamed of the semi-final. Kaja Juvan
Slovenia, who came out on top of their group thanks to a better sets win-loss record than the Kazkahs or Australia, have made it into the knock-out stage for the first time and will face Italy for a place in Sunday’s final on Saturday.
“It’s pretty unbelievable that we’re here,” said Slovenia’s Kaja Kuvan, whose 6-1 6-0 win over Anna Danilina helped edge her team through. “I don’t think any of us dreamed of the semi-final.”
Slovenia’s previous best Billie Jean King Cup performance was a quarter-final showing in 2003.
The final Group B tie saw Kazakhstan top Slovenia 2-1, meaning all 3 teams finished the round-robin stage with a 1-1 record overall, and they were all also level with a 3-3 set record.
A jet-lagged Elena Rybakina made it to Seville, but had picked up a back injury at the WTA Finals last week so it was up to Yulia Putintseva to fill the void alongside 28-year-old Anna Danilina, while their No 1 player watched from the sidelines.
The season-ending WTA Finals was marred by controversy, ranging from the late scheduling of the tournament to Cancun, to the poor playing conditions, which the players publicly condemned.
“Yeah, the facility and everything, like, what happened in Cancun, I think everyone knows already, like, how they prepared everything and what was going on in there,” Kazakhstan Captain, Yaroslava Shvedova said. “It was not in a good way for the players, and a lot of players came injured and unwell after that tournament.
“So she [Rybakina] is one of the few players who was struggling after the tournament and having some issues in her back. Hopefully, it will heal soon, and she’ll be on track again, and even better.”
Ranked 104 in the world, Juvan crushed the 814th-ranked Danilina in 53 minutes, dropping just 5 points in the second set, and her emphatic win placed Slovenia in the driving seat.
Her teammate Tamara Zidansek won the first set of the second rubber against Putintseva to ensure Slovenia finished top of Group B and join Italy and Canada in the semi-finals of the women’s team event.
She needed to notch just 8 games in her rubber against Yulia Putintseva to seal Slovenia’s semi-final spot, retiring at 2-6, 6-2 after Putintseva had levelled the match, but it was enough for Slovenia to seal their place in the Last 4.
Danilina & Zhibek Kulambayeva teamed up to give Kazakhstan their first win of the week, defeating Veronika Erjavec & Ela Milic, 2-6 6-4 [10-7].
“Since I started to play Billie Jean King Cup, it’s been a really, really long journey from the second Europe/Africa Group,” Juvan said later. ‘I think I started with Tamara at the same time.
“So I think just the whole process of slowly climbing up was really important, and also special for both of us. Even that we’re here, it’s pretty unbelievable. It’s the best 12 teams in the world. I don’t think any of us dreamed of the semi-final.”
Later on Friday, the Czech Republic defeated the United States, 2-1, to reach semi-finals, where the 11-times champions will take on Canada.
Katerina Siniakova & Barbara Krejcikova completed a 2-1 come-back against the Americans on the indoor hard court in Seville to eliminate USA after the pair beat Danielle Collins & Taylor Townsend, 6-3 7-5, in the decisive doubles match..
“The US were there, just waiting for the winning moment,” said Czech Captain Petr Pala. “It got to the wire, and it could have gone either way, but we have a world-class doubles team.”
Krejcikova, the 2021 French Open champion, has also paired with Siniakova to win 7 major doubles titles including this year’s Australian Open, and their experience showed in a dominant performance that included converting 6 of 8 break points.
“I was very happy when we sealed the winning point today,” Siniakova said, before talking about her continued success with Krejcikova. “Everyone wants to beat us, and they are coming and trying to find things.
“I wouldn’t say our partnership is natural. You just need to work hard, and we both like practicing, and trying to improve ourselves, which is a big part.”
Siniakova had started the day by losing to Collins, who won their opening singles rubber, 6-3 6-2, to give the USA a 1-0 lead in Group A, but Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova pulled the Czechs level at 1-1 after she brushed aside Sofia Kenin, 6-1 6-1.
The US were without their two highest-ranked players, World No 3 Coco Gauff and No 5 Jessica Pegula, who both played in the WTA finals in Mexico but finished just the day before the Billie Jean King Cup Finals started on Tuesday.
Kenin, who looked tired after her long match on Thursday, could not find any answers against against left-handed Vondrousova, whose precise game kept the American on the back foot throughout, and she managed just 10 winners against 37 unforced errors, while the Czech struck 21 winners to her 19 miscues.
The tie and the last semi-final spot was decided by the doubles, in which Collins & Townsend tried their utmost to upset former WTA Doubles World No 1s Krejcikova & Siniakova.
After the Czechs took the opening set, the Americans came back strongly in the second, and Collins & Townsend led by a break on 3 separate occasions, but Krejcikova & Siniakova broke back on each in the very next game en route to a 5-5 deadlock.
At 6-5, a Siniakova lob winner gave her and Krejcikova their first match point, which they converted after an hour and 25 minutes, sealing the straight sets win and Czechia’s spot in the semis.
It was the final appearance for US Captain Kathy Rinaldi, who will be replaced by Lindsay Davenport after having led the team for 7 years, the 4th longest stint in the team’s history.
“It’s been an incredible week,” Rinaldi said. “Everybody was selfless. It was all about the players. The private coaches that came in, the staff… it was just an incredible week.
“I loved my position as captain. I’ll miss it greatly. But I’m very grateful and very honoured that I had the years that I did, and there are so many memories.
“My saying was ‘What happens at Billie Jean King Cup stays at Billie Jean King Cup’, so I’m not giving anything away, and that’s ours. I feel like that’s what’s so special.”
These are the the two most successful teams in the competition’s history, with the USA winning the most titles with 18, and Czechia second on 11, but the Czechs have now won their last 3 meetings against the Americans.
With Italy already through to the Last 4, the final Group D tie between France and Germany was played for Nations Ranking points and pride.
France came through 3-0 after Clara Burel defeated Jule Niemeier, 6-4 6-3, before newcomer Varvara Gracheva notched a win after Tatjana Maria retired leading 3-0, and Caroline Garcia teamed up with Kristina Mladenovic to beat Niemeier & Laura Siegemund, 5-7 6-3 [10-1].
Spain also triumphed on Friday, winning the final round-robin tie of the week with an insurmountable 2-0 lead over Poland.
Rebeka Masarova defeated Katarzyna Kawa, 2-6 6-3 6-2, and Sara Sorribes Tormo bested Magda Linette, 7-6(5) 6-3, but Spain will not be in the running in the semi-finals on home soil, as Canada already won Group C with a 2-0 record.
Day 4 Results
Group D – France defeated Germany 3-0
- Clara Burel (FRA) d. Jule Niemeier (GER) 6-4 6-3
- Varvara Gracheva (FRA) d. Tatjana Maria (GER) 0-3 ret. (stomach muscle)
- Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. Jule Niemeier/Laura Siegemund (GER) 5-7 6-3 [10-1]
Group B – Kazakhstan defeated Slovenia 2-1
- Kaja Juvan (SLO) d. Anna Danilina (KAZ) 6-1 6-0
- Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) d. Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 2-6 6-2 ret. (stomach illness)
- Anna Danilina/Zhibek Kulambayeva (SLO) d. Veronika Erjavec/Ela Nala Milic (SLO) 2-6 6-4 [10-7]
Group C – Spain defeated Poland 2-1
- Rebeka Masarova (ESP) d. Katarzyna Kawa (POL) 2-6 6-3 6-2
- Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) d. Magda Linette (POL) 7-6(5) 6-3
- Katarzyna Kawa/Martyna Kubka (POL) d. Marina Bassols Ribera/Cristina Bucsa (ESP) 6-0 6-7(2) [10-3]
Group A – Czechia defeated USA 2-1
- Danielle Collins (USA) d. Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-3 6-2
- Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) d. Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-1 6-1
- Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova (CZE) d. Danielle Collins/Taylor Townsend (USA) 6-3 7-5
- 1000 CET, Centre Court: Italy v Slovenia
- Not before 1600 CET, Centre Court: Czechia v Canada
The players representing each team will be announced one hour prior to the start of each tie.