Joy Ride: Australia edge out Great Britain for 19th BJK Cup final

By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, November 12, 2022

Storm Sanders and Samantha Stosur edged Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 10-6 to clinch Australia’s trip to their 19th Billie Jean King Cup final.

Photo credit: Ian MacNicol/Getty

multitasking master storm sanders is not only a danger in singles and doubles.

Sanders is also a first-class party planner.

After: Reaction to Simona Halep’s doping suspension

Scheduled to tie the knot next week, Sanders kicked off a joyful Aussie celebration today.

Sanders and boyfriend Samantha Stosur bordered Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 10-6 in the deciding doubles to clinch Australia’s trip to their 19th Billie Jean King Cup Finals with a dramatic 2-1 decision over Great Britain Britain to Glasgow.

“It was amazing, it was a really good game,” Sanders said afterwards. “It could have gone either way. Well done to the British girls – they played very well today in singles and doubles. So well done to them, they played very well. They will definitely be back.”

Australia will face either the 11-time champions Czech Republic or Switzerland, in search of their first BJK Cup championship, in Sunday’s final at the Emirates Arena.

Seven-time champions Australia returned to the final for the first time since 2019 when they lost a heartbreaking 3-2 to France in a final that ended in the decisive double in Perth, Australia.

In this final, Australia was led by Ashleigh Barty. World No. 1 Barty retired after winning the Australian Open in January and today Sanders played like a world beater.

Southpaw Sanders opened today’s semi-final with a gutsy 6-4, 7-6(3) win over Heather Watson to stake Australia in the lead.

Tennis Express

Emotion can be a great equalizer in the BJK Cup game.

World No. 98 Harriet Dard showed that he was stopping Ajla Tomljanovic 7-6(3), 6-2 to tie this semi-final for hosts Great Britain and set the stage for the deciding doubles match.

The four players continually raised the stakes in a superb doubles thriller. Deadlocked at 6-6, Australia missed the final four points with Sanders smashing a forehand volley to earn a trip to the final.

“A real credit to the four players on the pitch which was quite inspiring,” Australia captain Alicia Molik said afterwards. “So hopefully it inspires a lot more of you to play doubles. It was really such a high level that you couldn’t choose it in the end.

“We have the team, I believe, to get through tomorrow. We are still catching up with the final that we lost a few years ago. We know what it is like. We have great support. us for the taking. We just have to go out there and see what happens.

In today’s opener, Watson whipped a running forehand winner down the line as he navigated a tough 10-minute hold for a 5-4 second lead.

Sanders scored the first love hold of the game to force the second-set tiebreaker.

At the crucial moment, Sanders competed with more bite and aggression.

The world No. 10 in doubles started with three consecutive winners. Sanders hit a backhand winner down the line for a 4-1 lead which she quickly extended to 6-1.

On his third match point, Sanders closed when Watson scored a forehand.

“I can’t really speak right now, I’m shaking. It’s unbelievable,” Sanders said. “Heather is a very, very good player. Playing in front of their home crowd was a tough ask for us. I just tried to stick with her and tried to fight back and I was able to turn it around and I’m great happy with my performance today.

“It was really, really tight. I just tried to support myself and play my game. I like to be aggressive and stay on the baseline and hit the ball as hard as I can. I just kept trying to do it, just trying to fight for the team. Having them on the sidelines, every point watching them and they just gave me a lot of energy. I couldn’t have gotten through this without them.”

After Sanders gave Australia a 1-0 lead, the green and gold were one win away from a return to the final.

A determined dart held from love-30 to the open. Dart drilled a forehand down the line and followed it forward for a smash in Tomljanovic’s opening service game.

Dart had eight of nine points, creating a 3-0 lead after just eight minutes of play.

A bold backhand down the line helped Dart hold on to extend their lead to 5-2.

The Briton served for the set at 5-3, but Tomljanovic did a good job of spreading the field and drawing an errant backhand to come back. Tomljanovic saved a set point in the 10th game, eventually extending the set in the tiebreaker.

At that point, Dart stepped in on the baseline to attack the Aussie’s second serve. Frightened by her opponent’s assertive positioning on the pitch, Tomljanovic double-faulted to fall behind 2-5 in the breaker.

Throwing a forehand cross gave Dart more set points at 6-3. She closed the set on her second set point.

Swinging free, Dart broke to start the second set and scored his third break for 4-1. Dart beat Tomljanovic for the first time in three encounters to force the deciding doubles match.

Neither team was able to create much separation in the deciding doubles thriller.

Nicholls held on to force the second-set tiebreaker when Stosur scored a short forehand.

Reading the return, Nicholls plugged in the middle and reflexed a volley winner to level the breaker after 10 points. A mistake by Australia gave Britain the set point.

Rushing forward, Barnett hit a high forehand stretching volley to end the second set and force a game 1-10 tiebreaker.

A clever rainbow lob from Sanders gave Australia a 3-2 lead, a lead they extended to 6-3.

The Brits responded with a three-point run as Nicholls’ service winner leveled the breaker at 6-6.

That’s when veteran Stosur stepped in. Stosur plugged in the middle with a forehand volley winner and clipped a swinging forehand volley to split the defense for match points. Sanders sealed it by sending the Australians through to the final.

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