Swiss salute to face Czech mates in semis
SWITZERLAND has overcome a red-hot Canada to reach the semi-finals of the Billie Jean King (BJK) Cup in a bid to go one better than last year. The nation fell to Russia in the 2021 decider, and due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the top seeds were banned from all tennis team competitions in 2022. Switzerland assumed the number one seed at the event in Glasgow, and after rolling Italy 3-0, claimed a 2-1 victory over the North Americans to stamp their ticket into the next round.
Interestingly, Swiss captain Heinz Guenthardt took a massive risk sending in 77th ranked Viktorija Golubic up against world number 45 Bianca Andreescu, over the in-form Jil Teichmann (35th in the world). Andreescu is a former US Open champion, and did beat Golubic in their only meeting, last year’s US Open. However in the match, Golubic pushed the star to three sets, and it went that way again in the BJK Cup contest, This time though, the Swiss 30-year-old would take home the chocolates.
At first it looked as if Guenthardt’s choice had backfired as Andreescu cruised to a first set victory in 42 minutes. The Canadian hit 15 inners to nine, and broke three times to one, with a first serve percentage of 68 per cent, winning 12 of 17 of those. Golubic was struggling hard, with just 15 of her 36 service points off a 47 per cent clip. She only hit the five unforced errors, but won none of her six net points and was largely being controlled by Andreescu.
The second set was a complete reversal however, as Golubic’s consistency came back into play. Her serving efficiency shot up 31 per cent and she won 68 and 71 per cent of her first and second serve. Andreescu’s clip dropped to 47 per cent and though she was largely still able to hold serve, Golubic did win the one break from a single chance. The Swiss talent also only hit six unforced errors to Andreescu’s 13.
Going to a decider, the players ground out a 47-minute set, with both going toe-for-toe and not much separating them. Golubic only hit one less winner (7-8) but five less unforced errors (9-14), whilst maintaining a 65 and 67 per cent success rate off her serves, compared to Andreescu’s 56 and 60 per cent. Though it was tight, two breaks to one was ultimately the difference for Golubic to win the set 6-4, and the overall match, 2-6 6-3 6-4 in two hours and nine minutes.
The second match pitting the Swiss world number 12 Belinda Bencic up against the Canadian 40th ranked Leylah Fernandez. The Canadian was coming off a double-bagel the day before against Martina Trevisan and dropping just two games in her doubles, but instead it would be the 20-year-old on the receiving end of the bagel. In a set that lasted just 25 minutes, Bencic won 25 of the 35 points, only dropped four points off her serve, broke Fernandez three times and hit seven winners to three unforced errors to go ahead 6-0.
As the US Open runner-up has done many times before, Fernandez stepped up in the second set to put a challenge to Bencic, forcing it to 5-5 and making the Swiss star take her game to another level. In a 64-minute set, both players hit 12 winners, but Bencic had three less unforced errors (14-17) and broke three times to two, claiming the last couple of games to win the set 7-5, and match 6-0 7-5. In total, Bencic hit 19 winners to 17 unforced errors, compared to Fernandez’s 16 and 24.
Switzerland had claimed the tie, but Canada did get one back with Fernandez teaming up with doubles specialist and world number seven in that format, Gabriela Dabrowski. The pair won 6-2 6-1 in 51 minutes over Teichmann and Simona Waltert, neither of whom are doubles specialists. Winning 71 and 59 per cent of their first and second serve points to control the match, the Canadians also hit 18 winners to only seven unforced errors, while the Swiss went eight and 11. It did not matter for the result though, with the number one seeds advancing to the final four.
AROUND THE COURTS
In the final match of the round robin stage in Group D, Czech Republic wrapped up its tie with the United States early by winning both of its singles matches. In a battle of the players who lost Grand Slam finals to Ash Barty, Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova got the better of Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins in straight sets. Vondrousova won 6-3 6-3 in an underdog result to kick-start her nation’s success. In the second match, Katerina Siniakova was called in to play singles over Karolina Pliskova, and won 7-6 6-1 in a stunning upset over world number seven, Coco Gauff. The match lasted an hour and 25 minutes to seal the deal. The doubles saw the United States get one back with Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend overcoming Karolina Muchova and Karolina Pliskova, 6-3 6-3.