Billie Jean King wrap: Day 2 – Barty-less Australia Storm Belgium as Russia oust Canada

NO Ash Barty or Ajla Tomljanovic? No worries for Australia, as the green and gold stunned Belgium to move one win away from an unlikely semi-final spot and automatic qualification to next year’s Billie Jean King Finals. The Aussies came in with former Top 30 player Daria Gavrilova – now ranked 412th in the world – and Storm Sanders – ranked 131st – up against the Top 20 talent in Elise Mertens and 70th ranked Greet Minnen, and despite looking down and out at times, came up trumps.

Gavrilova took on Minnen in the first match, and showed in the first set why she was a former Top 30 player, taking an early lead 6-4. Knowing that counterpart Sanders would have to face the dangerous Mertens, Gavrilova simply had to cause an upset – the lesser of the two possible upsets – to keep Australia’s dreams of a Billie Jean King Cup semi-final alive. Injury struck in the second set as Gavrilova started to slow down and Mertens took full toll to level the match.

After an injury break, Gavrilova came back into it, and both players were going at it. Facing a break point at 3-4, the Australian looked to be on the brink of losing, but then not only saved that and held, but broke back and won the set, and the match, 6-4 1-6 6-4. In a match that lasted two hours and three minutes, Gavrilova was far from consistent, serving nine double faults for just one ace, but she made up for it by gritting hard and saving 10 of her 14 break points against. She produced the same amount of winners (24 apiece), and despite having four more unforced errors (28-24) and six less total points (85-91), just got the job done.

It released the pressure valve from Sanders who knew she would have her work cut out for her against Mertens. Early going it looked like everything would go to script, and the Belgians were not going to panic given Mertens was not only playing the singles against a much lower opponent, but also the doubles as one of the best in the world in that format. Mertens took the opening set 6-3, and then was pushed more into a tiebreaker, but on the brink of defeat, Sanders found something and pushed through to stun the Belgian and grab the second set in a tiebreaker. Then came a set that no one saw coming. Sanders blitzed Mertens to win the decider 6-0 in 27 minutes, conceding just 10 points for the set, hitting 11 winners to two, and only committing four unforced errors to nine for a 3-6 7-6 6-0 victory.

The Aussies had done it, against all the odds and missing their two best players, they had toppled the the Belgians. Mertens and Minnen showed up for the doubles against Sanders and Ellen Perez, and whilst both the Australians are in the Top 50 for doubles, Mertens ensured they still got a point to try and keep their hopes of a semi-final place alive. They won 6-2 6-4 in 61 minutes, serving at a 63 per cent clip to win 77 per cent of their first serve points and break four times to one. They also hit only three less winners (10-13), but 10 less unforced errors too (20-30). Australia will now take on Belarus, with a victory guaranteeing them a semi-finals spot.


Daria Gavrilova (AUS) defeated Greet Minnen (BEL) 6-4 1-6 6-4
Storm Sanders (AUS) defeated Elise Mertens (BEL) 3-6 7-6 6-0
E. Mertens/G. Minnen (BEL) defeated E. Perez/S. Sanders (AUS) 6-2 6-4


Russia has snuffed out Canada’s chances of a semi-finals spot, bringing the lowly-ranked nation back to earth with a clean sweep in in their clash. A night after Canada stunned reigning champions France with an unlikely victory, the atmosphere was a little different after, with Russia’s stacked side getting up 3-0, and only dropping one set across the three matches. Top 30 players Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Daria Kasatkina were taking on world number 148 Rebecca Marino and world number 328 Carol Zhao, the latter of whom was a late inclusion for Leylah Fernandez.

Zhao was thrust straight into the action against second singles player Kasatkina, with the latter world number 28 getting up 6-3 6-1. The match lasted just 59 minutes, with the Russian serving at a 72 per cent clip, winning a consistent 67 and 75 per cent of her first and second serve points. It was not a match of power, with a total of 12 winners (8-4 in Kasatkina’s way), but one that provided plenty of errors, as Zhao committed 20 more unforced errors (44-24).

The second match saw the world number 12 Pavlyuchenkova face off against Marino, but got more than she bargained for, having to go the full distance before pulling off a three-set win, 6-4 4-6 6-2 in an hour and 38 minutes. Pavlyuchenkova is the opposite to Kasatkina, able to hit some powerful winners, and she produced 17 of them to Marino’s 10, also serving nine aces to six. She was also inconsistent though, producing 46 unforced errors and four double faults, but was tough to beat on serve, winning 86 and 67 per cent of her first and second serve points, and breaking three times to one, to secure Russia the tie.

Two of the best doubles players in the world faced off the the last match with Marino joined by fifth ranked Gabriela Dabrowski, up against the 11th ranked Veronika Kudermetova and the basically unranked Liudmila Samsonova. Kudermetova carried her side to victory, winning 6-3 6-1 in the quickest match of the night despite it being predicted to be the closest heading into the tie. The Russians hit 18 winners to 10 had 15 less unforced errors (19-34) and broke five times to one in a convincing performance. They now face France in a result where providing they win at least one match, will advance to the semi-finals.


Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Carol Zhao (CAN) 6-3 6-1
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Rebecca Marino (CAN) 6-4 4-6 6-2
V. Kudermetova/L. Samsonova (RUS) defeated G. Dabrowski/R. Marino (CAN) 6-3 6-1


Picture credit: Paul Zimmer


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