Emma Raducanu leads GB to BJK Cup Finals with stunning win over France

Estimated read time 5 min read

As they faced off against a quality France squad on unfamiliar soil, Great Britain’s Billie Jean King team made no secret of their underdog status and the significant challenge ahead of them. Their inferiority on paper was only reinforced early on as they found themselves on the brink of a 0-2 deficit they would have been unlikely to overturn. But Emma Raducanu has risen to the occasion spectacularly, producing some of her very best tennis of the past two and a half years to lead Great Britain into the Billie Jean King Cup finals with two brilliant victories in a 3-1 upset win over France.

After opening with a surprise win over Caroline Garcia on Friday, Raducanu closed out the tie with another show of excellence. She played at an extremely high level before holding off a desperate final stand from Diane Parry, eventually winning 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1).

Katie Boulter, the British No 1, had suffered a “humbling” 6-2, 6-0 loss to Parry in the opening rubber, her first tour-level clay court match, but bounced back a day later by defeating Clara Burel 7-5, 6-0 to establish a 2-1 lead for her team. Raducanu did the rest.

“I don’t know who said Brits can’t play on clay,” said Raducanu. “But today was a bit of a test of it that we can. Katie did a great job this morning and it helped so much going into this match, knowing that we were [up] 2-1.”

Although Great Britain reached the semi-finals of the BJK Cup in 2022, they entered the event that year with a wildcard. This is the first time they have reached the finals on merit under the current format, and the victory stands as one of Great Britain’s greatest best-of-five rubber wins in the event this century.

The tie was not without its drama. After Raducanu’s recovery from 3-6, 0-2 down to Garcia on Friday night changed the complexion of the tie, Saturday morning brought further intrigue as France’s captain, Julien Benneteau, opted to replace Garcia with the inexperienced world No 46, Burel. It turned out to be a disastrous move. After her loss against Parry, Boulter had resolved to play the type of attacking tennis that she had strayed from in her first match. From 4-5 down, she rolled through nine consecutive games to close out the win and she later described Raducanu as an inspiration.

Katie Boulter celebrates giving Great Britain a 2-1 lead with a straight-sets win over Clara BurelView image in fullscreen

“The most important thing was that I came out today and I fought, and I just kept fighting. I just played my way,” said Boulter. “I actually got a very, very sweet message from Emma last night which really kick-started my day after her incredible performance. That was the main thing that got me through today. She said a few nice words which means a lot coming from someone like her. She’s such a star and I have a lot of respect for what she’s done in the sport and the way that she plays , how relentless she is.”

Raducanu soon gave a supreme demonstration of that relentlessness as she and Parry, both extremely talented 21-year-olds, rose to the occasion and played at an extremely high level from the very beginning. As Raducanu refused to move from the baseline, taking the ball early, eviscerating second serves and striking her forehand brilliantly, Parry unloaded on her heavy topspin forehand while showing her full array of variety with net forays and delicate drop shots.

Just like her opening match, Raducanu had played well despite conceding the opening set and while she maintained her high level and determined aggression, Parry’s level plummeted. Raducanu seemed to be moving swiftly to victory as she established a 5-2 final lead and held two match points. Instead, Parry fought for her life. From 2-5 down, she reached 5-5, 15-40 on Raducanu’s serve.

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“It was a pretty massive effort,” the Briton said. “It was incredibly difficult to recover [from missing the match points]. I got to that point in the match by going for my shots, so I couldn’t get too down on myself.”

In the final moments, on the brink of one of the most difficult defeats of her career, Raducanu showed her mental strength and resilience by recovering to close out a brilliant win with an excellent tie-break. In the process, she offered a strong reminder of what she has already achieved and underlined her determination to attain much more.

“In the worst-case scenario it goes to a deciding doubles,” said Raducanu. “But I didn’t want to get to that point, obviously, because they have one of the best, probably the best doubles team in the world. I’m very happy to make it to the finals and I think that after all those tries, we deserve it on our own merit.”

Source: theguardian.com

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