US thwart Ukraine to reach BJK Cup finals

Asia, Pegula help country bag 3-2 win in decisive doubles match; Poland, Czechs advance

AFP April 17, 2022


Ukraine came up just short in a thrilling comeback bid on Saturday, falling 3-2 to the United States, who booked their spot in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

Trailing 0-2 to start the day, Ukraine had singles wins from Dayana Yastremska and Katarina Zavatska to pull level before Asia Muhammad and Jessica Pegula beat Yastremska and Lyudmyla Kichenok in the decisive doubles match 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.

The final matched capped an emotional week in Asheville, North Carolina, where Ukrainian players acknowledged it was hard to concentrate on the task at hand amid worry over family and friends at home during the ongoing Russian invasion.

"I always like to represent my country but now at this moment it's, well, it's tough to describe it," Yastremska said after her 6-3, 6-4 victory over Pegula. "My heart stays at home, but my mind is here."

At least the Ukrainians had moments to celebrate, including 201st-ranked Zavatska's 6-3, 6-4 upset of 46th-ranked Shelby Rogers that levelled the tie at 2-2.

"I was in the zone," an ecstatic Zavatska said after her first career win over a top-50 player.

The US were the last to clinch their spot in the finals on a day that saw world number one Iga Swiatek of Poland crush Romania's 324th-ranked Andreea Prisacariu 6-0, 6-0 in 45 minutes to seal victory for the hosts in Radom.

"Really proud of us," said Swiatek, who only dropped one game in her two singles rubbers this weekend.

"It has been a long journey. It took us a few years, step by step to progress and qualify finally."

Poland will be hoping to improve on their best-ever performance in the competition – a quarter-final run in 1992 – in the finals in November.

In Prague, the Czechs secured victory over Britain in a deciding doubles rubber, with Karolina Muchova and Marketa Vondrousova beating Harriet Dart and Katie Swan 6-1, 7-5.

Vondrousova beat US Open champion Emma Raducanu 6-1, 6-1 to give the hosts the lead in the first reverse singles.

"The score looks easy but it was a tough match and she was a bit injured," said Vondrousova.

Raducanu had dragged Britain back into the tie in her first professional match on clay on Friday with a hard-fought victory over Tereza Martincova, but she struggled on Saturday.

"I have a blister on my foot, it kind of showed up after yesterday's match," she told the BBC. "It completely stopped me from moving, it's tough to not even be able to chase the ball."

Dart then dragged the British level despite some nervous moments as she beat 16-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova 6-0, 5-7, 6-2.

Elena Rybakina clinched victory for Kazakhstan over Germany, winning 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 against Angelique Kerber in Nur-Sultan to take her country to the finals for the first time.

In Sardinia, Camila Giorgi won 12 successive games as she dispatched Harmony Tan of France 6-2, 6-0 to give Italy an unassailable 3-0 advantage.

Tan, ranked 107th in the world, was preferred to 34th-ranked Alize Cornet and jumped into a 2-0 lead before the hard-hitting Giorgi took complete control.

"I'm happy, it was a great match," Giorgi said. "At the beginning it was a bit difficult, then I fixed my game."

Since winning the competition for the third time in 2019, France have lost all three ties they have played.

Spain are the only away team to win as Sara Sorribes Tormo sealed their place in the finals by beating Arantxa Rus 6-0, 6-4 in s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.

Canada wrapped up a 3-0 victory over Latvia with Leylah Fernandez's 6-2, 6-1 victory over Daniela Vismane in Vancouver.

The qualifiers will join Switzerland, Australia, Belgium and Slovakia in the finals later this year.

Defending champions Russia and Belarus have been expelled from the competition due to the invasion of Ukraine


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