The initial communication of the Billie Jean King Cup playoffs between Great Britain and Sweden at London’s Copper Box Arena conveyed a clear message: rankings are often not significant.
The expectations were high for Great Britain to win all the matches against a weakened team missing their top two players due to injuries. However, on the first day, the score was tied 1-1. In the first match, Jodie Burrage was defeated 6-4, 6-1 by Kajsa Rinaldo Persson, ranked at No. 372. Burrage lost 12 of the last 13 games to Persson. Despite this initial disappointment, Katie Boulter quickly evened the score by defeating Caijsa Wilda Hennemann 6-2, 6-1.
Burrage has been eagerly anticipating her first BJK Cup appearance. In the previous year, the 24-year-old was disappointed to not be selected for the finals in Glasgow. However, with a successful season and a spot in the top 100, she solidified her position as a clear choice for the team this year.
At the beginning, Burrage appeared to be handling the situation confidently. Her strong serve and powerful shots gave her a quick 4-0 advantage. However, things quickly unraveled as she began making a series of anxious and unintentional mistakes. From then on, Burrage had difficulty finding her rhythm against the persistent and steady play of Persson, winning only one more game.
Burrage stated that the pressure of playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon was nothing compared to representing her country in front of a packed arena of 5,500 fans. She noted that there is a clear distinction between playing for oneself and playing for a team. In the latter scenario, she is not solely responsible for the outcome, but is also representing others, adding a different level of pressure.
The captain of Great Britain, Anne Keothavong, stated that Jodie has deserved the opportunity to compete. Jodie has had a remarkable year and is expected to end the year as one of the top 100 players. It will be a difficult loss for her to handle, but she needs to find a way to recover and continue to put herself in consideration for future selections.
There has never been any uncertainty about Boulter’s competence to excel in this tournament, where she has consistently excelled throughout her career, even during times of struggle in other areas.
Boulter’s team depended on her to defeat an opponent who was ranked significantly lower at No 532, 474 spots below her own ranking of No 58. She demonstrated composure and aggressive tactics to easily defeat Hennemann with calculated, strategic tennis.
On Sunday, the teams will come back and the victor will stay in the highest tier of the Billie Jean King Cup until 2024. During this time, Keothavong will need to choose whether to let Burrage participate in the fourth match or bring in Harriet Dart or Heather Watson.
Boulter stated that their team will give their best effort and does not use the word “should”. They anticipate the opposing team to make an attempt with no pressure. It is Boulter’s responsibility to do what is possible, and she trusts that her teammates will also give their best effort.
In the end, Jack Draper from Great Britain fell short in his inaugural ATP final despite a fantastic week. He was beaten by Adrian Mannarino 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-3 in the Sofia Open final.