After four years, Great Britain once again competed at the Copper Box, where they had previously achieved a significant victory to advance from the lower zonal groups of the Billie Jean King Cup. This time, they returned as one of the top tennis nations and secured their spot among the elite by defeating Sweden with a dominant score of 3-1.
Katie Boulter once again demonstrated her leadership for Great Britain by securing her second victory in the tie, defeating Kajsa Rinaldo Persson in a challenging 6-1, 7-6 (5) match. Harriet Dart also played a crucial role, staying composed and focused as she defeated Caijsa Hennemann 7-5, 6-2 to seal the victory.
After winning in the playoffs, Great Britain will progress to the qualifiers in April, where they will compete for a spot in the finals.
Anne Keothavong, the captain of the British team, expressed her satisfaction with getting the job done. Although there were some challenges, the team persevered and achieved what was needed today.
The first match of the tie started on Saturday afternoon with Persson, ranked 372nd, surprising everyone by playing at a higher level than her ranking and defeating Burrage, ranked 93rd, with a score of 6-4, 6-1. Burrage struggled under the pressure of her Billie Jean Cup debut. Boulter then evened the score with a smooth 6-2, 6-1 victory against Hennemann.
At the start of the game against Persson, Boulter displayed her skill by controlling the game from the baseline with a strategic use of aggression. She easily won the first set. However, Persson also played exceptionally, using excellent retrieval and counterattacking techniques that caused errors from the top-ranked British player.
Persson was ahead 5-3 with a score of 40-15 in the second set, and it seemed like a third set was likely. However, Boulter was able to capitalize on her good fortune and show her resilience. Despite being down two set points, Boulter hit a lucky shot off the net cord and then took advantage of a double fault from Persson to avoid losing the set.
However, Boulter managed to regain her composure and make a comeback in the set. She then dominated in the crucial moments towards the end of a tough tie-breaker. Despite being behind 4-5, Boulter emerged victorious by winning the last three points, securing her spot in the next round.
Boulter stated that winning a set after saving set points requires a combination of determination, good fortune, and effort, as well as having faith in the process and the dedication put in over the years.
Following Burrage’s disappointing performance in the first match, the team lineup for Sunday’s games was not unexpected. Keothavong wasted no time in replacing the British second-ranked player with Dart, who holds the world No 138 spot and helped her team reach the semi-finals in the previous year. Dart’s reliability and determination during crucial moments propelled her to a convincing win against Hennemann, ranked No 532, who also put up a strong effort but ultimately couldn’t match Dart’s level.
After finishing her last match of the season, Boulter looked back with great contentment at her best season yet, which was also her first season without any major injuries. She started the season ranked No 157 and has since improved her ranking by more than 100 points, reaching a personal best of 50 and also winning her first WTA title in Nottingham.
“It has been an eventful and hectic period for various reasons,” Boulter shared. “I believe my hard work over the past decade is beginning to pay off. You never know when your big break will come, and I was fortunate to receive one this year. I felt that I carried the momentum from the grass court season into the hard court swing.”
Keothavong expressed the same contentment as Boulter. At the start of the grass court season, with Emma Raducanu not competing, there were no British players ranked in the top 100 of the WTA. However, several British women have since had strong performances and ended the tour season on a high note in front of approximately 5,500 spectators on their home turf.
At this time, they are all in a positive state,” stated Keothavong. “I don’t want to jump ahead or get too ahead of ourselves, but if they continue to put in the effort, there is no reason why they cannot excel.”