Juvan sets up Slovenian BJK Cup success
SLOVENIAN rising star Kaja Juvan has moved her nation one step closer to the Billie Jean King Cup knockout stages after dominating second ranked Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in just 36 minutes. The 104th ranked 22-year-old – who turns 23 later this month – was outstanding in the 6-4 6-1 victory, with the 17 games lasting an average of two minutes and seven seconds.
Juvan was clinical in the victory, winning an impressive 68 per cent of her first serve points and was only broken once. She just hit the 10 winners, but was far more effective than Tomljanovic who could only capitalise on break point opportunities, as the Slovenian saved a massive five chances. In contrast, Juvan successfully broke off all four of her opportunities on Tomljanovic’s serve.
Slovenia wrapped up the tie with the 100th ranked Tamara Zidansek too strong for top seeded Aussie, Daria Saville. Zidansek, who is more dangerous than her triple-digit ranking gives her credit for, won in a near-identical scoreline to the first match, 6-1 6-4. The key difference was the fact that Saville fought it out across 91 minutes to keep the Aussie dreams alive until eventually being extinguished.
Zidansek’s serve was the key difference between the two players, with the Slovenian serving seven aces to nil, and winning a massive 77 per cent of her first serve points. She was vulnerable off her second serve however, only winning 29 per cent of her points, which was the largest way Saville capitalised.
The Australian powered her way to 16 winners compared to her opponent’s 18, but only broke once from seven chances, while Zidansek broke four times from six opportunities. The victory sealed Slovenia’s win which meant the doubles was essentially a dead rubber for the tie, but not for the overall tournament.
Australia knew the importance of securing the doubles match with the potential of advancing if they could knock off Kazakhstan in a sweep while Slovenia went down to the Middle Eastern nation. Kimberly Birrell and Storm Hunter – the latter who arrived straight from Spain after fears she would miss the entire first tie – ground out a hard-fought super tiebreak win over Slovenian pair, Veronika Erjavec and Ela Nala Milic.
The 7-5 6-7 10-5 victory in one hour and 47 minutes kept Australia’s hopes of advancing past the group stage alive. The Aussies hit 24 winners to 20, and won 66 per cent of their first serve points compared to Slovenia’s 57 per cent. Though the green and gold picked up the one match win, Slovenia just needs to defeat Kazakhstan in order to advance to the semi-finals of the tournament.
Slovenia’s victory was the nation’s first ever Billie Jean King Cup Finals win, and it came against the world number twos and reigning back-to-back finalists.
“I always love to play for my country,” Juvan said. “As always, the team effort and everything is giving me a lot of motivation and a lot of energy. We have always been considered like an underdog anywhere.
“Coming from a small country, people don’t expect much – and it’s normal – because the conditions are a little bit worse than in some big country that has a more established system.
“I’m really proud to come from Slovenia. There is only two million of us, and I think as a country we are doing exceptionally well in sports. We always have extra motivation when we come somewhere.
“I think just coming here is like, ‘let’s show them a little bit why we are also here’.”