After four years, Great Britain returned to the Copper Box where they had previously achieved a significant victory and escaped the lower ranked Billie Jean King Cup groups. This time, they demonstrated their skill as one of the top tennis nations by confidently defeating Sweden with a strong 3-1 score.
Katie Boulter once again demonstrated her leadership for Great Britain by earning her second victory in the match against Kajsa Rinaldo Persson with a hard-fought score of 6-1, 7-6 (5). The final victory was secured by a strong showing from Harriet Dart, who remained composed and focused to defeat Caijsa Hennemann 7-5, 6-2.
After winning in the playoffs, Great Britain will move on to the qualifiers in April, where they will compete for a spot in the finals.
Anne Keothavong, the captain of the British team, expressed her satisfaction in completing the job. She acknowledged that there may have been some obstacles, but they were able to overcome them and accomplish what was needed today.
The match started with a caution on Saturday afternoon when Persson, ranked 372nd, performed exceptionally well beyond her ranking and defeated the 93rd-ranked Jodie Burrage 6-4, 6-1. Burrage, who was making her Billie Jean Cup debut, struggled under the pressure. Boulter evened out the match by efficiently defeating Hennemann 6-2, 6-1.
At the start of the game against Persson, Boulter demonstrated her skill by taking control from the baseline with strategic aggression, quickly winning the first set. However, Persson also performed exceptionally, expertly returning and countering as she successfully caused mistakes from the top British player.
Persson was ahead 5-3, 40-15 in the second set and it seemed like a third set was going to happen. However, Boulter was fortunate and showed her strong mentality. Despite being down two set points, Boulter hit a fortuitous shot off the net to win a point before Persson’s double fault removed the set points.
However, Boulter managed to recover and regain her footing, ultimately gaining control during the crucial moments of the intense tie-break. Despite being behind at 4-5 in the tie-break, Boulter was able to secure victory by winning the last three points.
Boulter stated that it takes determination, good fortune, and dedication, along with trusting the process and her years of hard work, to come back and win a set after saving set points.
Following Burrage’s disappointing showing in the first match, the team lineup for Sunday’s matches was not unexpected. Keothavong wasted no time in replacing the British No 2 with Dart, currently ranked No 138 in the world. Dart had previously led her team to the semi-finals and her strong performance and concentration in crucial moments led her to a convincing win over Hennemann, ranked No 532. Although Hennemann put up a commendable effort, she was unable to match Dart’s consistency.
After completing her last match of the season, Boulter looked back with great satisfaction on her best season yet and the absence of any major injuries. Despite being ranked No 157 in March, Boulter improved her ranking by over 100 points, reaching a career high of 50 and claiming her first WTA title in Nottingham.
“It has been a whirlwind for various reasons,” stated Boulter. “I believe that the effort I have invested over the past decade is finally paying off. You never know when you will get your opportunity, and this year I was fortunate to get one. I utilized the momentum from the grass court season to the hard court swing.”
Keothavong agreed with Boulter’s contentment. Prior to the start of the grass court season, there were no British players ranked in the top 100 of the WTA, as Emma Raducanu was not present. However, as the season progressed, several British women had impressive performances and ended the tour season on a high note, with a crowd of approximately 5,500 in attendance on their home turf.
“They are currently all in a good position,” stated Keothavong. “I do not want to get ahead of myself or speculate too far ahead, but as long as they continue to work hard, there is no reason why they cannot be at the top.”