Spain sweeps Kazakhstan to move into box seat

SPAIN survived a couple of hard-fought singles matches against Kazakhstan to move into the box seat for a spot in the Billie Jean King (BJK) Cup semi-finals. The Group C match came after Kazakhstan defeated Great Britain yesterday, and would have qualified for the final four had it won against the third seeds. Spain, lead by Paula Badosa, had other ideas, as it ended up sweeping Kazakhstan and all but guaranteeing its spot in the semis.

The first match between Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz and Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva lived up to expectations, with the former needing a full three sets – and a deciding tiebreak – to claim the win. In a see-sawing contest, Parrizas-Diaz won the first set 6-4 off the back of 10 winners to serve, and doing damage off her forehand. Putintseva coughed up four double faults and only won 52 and 45 per cent of her first and second serve points.

The young Kazakh got back on top in the second set, thanks to a far higher serving efficiency of 73 per cent, only dropping six points off her serve. Though she only hit the five winners, she had just 10 unforced errors, and broke twice without facing a break point herself. With the stage set for a blockbuster decider, both players were not willing to give much, with Putintseva bravely saving six break point chances and her opponent only breaking twice.

With five more winners, Parrizas-Diaz was still controlling the play, and it ultimately showed, winning the set 7-5 in the tiebreaker for an overall win of 6-4 2-6 7-6. Of Parrizas-Diaz’s 39 winners for the match, 31 came off her forehand wing, and she also only committed six more unforced errors (51-45) while winning two more total points (117-115).

After the first match went two hours and 40 minutes, the second almost lived up to that expectation, with Badosa and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina locking horns. Badosa claimed the first set 6-2 to race out to an early lead, with Rybakina’s 11 unforced errors to just one off the Spaniard’s racquet the difference. Like her compatriot, Rybakina was able to steady in the second serve, only dropping eight points off her serve, and smashing eight winners to three. Badosa had a passive second set which opened the door for Rybakina who took her chances.

In the decider, it was Badosa who stood tall, breaking twice from five chances and weathering 12 winners from Rybakina. The Spaniard’s consistency – which included just six unforced errors to Rybakina’s 18 – was critical, and the world number 13 ensured she would set her team up with a 2-0 lead in the tie. Rybakina hit nine more winners (26-17), but also 22 more unforced errors (37-15), as Badosa broke Rybakina four time to two in order to win, 6-2 3-6 6-4.

Given the match result was decided, the doubles was a dead rubber for the day, but had potential consequences for qualification. Both Badosa and Putintseva returned to the court, with the former teaming up with Aliona Bolsova, while the latter paired with Anna Danilina. Unfortunately for the Kazakh’s, their dream of advancing would be over in a little over an hour, with Spain’s 6-4 6-2 victory ensuring only it or Great Britain could advance to the next stage.

Spain hit 25 winners to 17 and only 10 unforced errors to 17, while breaking five times to two to complete the 3-0 sweep of the tie. As it stands, Spain will advance to the semi-finals unless it goes down to Great Britain 3-0. The home nation lost to Kazakhstan 2-1 on day one.


Top BJK Cup seeds Switzerland brushed past Italy 3-0 to kick off Group A, with Belinda Bencic and Jil Teichmann only dropping a combined one set. Teichmann knocked off Elisabetta Cocciaretto in three hard-fought sets 6-3 4-6 7-6, before Bencic defeated Jasmine Paolini a little easier, 7-5 6-3. In the doubles, the pair returned to the court together against Paolini and Martina Trevisan, overcoming a tight first set tiebreaker to win 7-6 6-1, and complete the sweep.

In the first match of Group D, the United States took down Poland as expected, but not without a scare in the singles. Both Danielle Collins and Madison Keys had to work past tight three-setters, with Collins eventually getting the better of Magdalena Frech, 6-4 3-6 7-6. The news was not as good for Keys, who suffered a loss at the hands of Magda Linette, 6-4 4-6 6-2. In the doubles, Coco Gauff returned from the WTA Finals to team up with Catherine McNally to steamroll the Poles and win 6-1 6-2 in just 47 minutes.

The other BJK Cup tie saw Slovakia wrap up its involvement in the group stage, taking down Belgium 2-1 to keep its dreams alive of reaching the semi-finals. After losing to Australia the day before, Viktoria Kuzmova and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova both stepped up to win singles against the higher ranked Belgian duo of Ysaline Bonaventure and Maryna Zanevska. Unfortunately top singles talent Elise Mertens was rested with the world number 29 instead taking to the court in doubles coming off a WTA Finals doubles title, to team up with Kirsten Flipkens and win 6-0 6-3 in a dominant third match to keep the nation’s hopes alive of qualifying.

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