The opening match of the Billie Jean King Cup playoffs between Great Britain and Sweden at London’s Copper Box Arena sent a clear message: rankings are often insignificant.
Great Britain was predicted to dominate in all matches against a weakened team missing their top two players due to injuries. However, the first day ended with a 1-1 tie. Jodie Burrage lost the opening match to Kajsa Rinaldo Persson, ranked 372nd, in a brutal 6-4, 6-1 defeat, losing 12 out of the last 13 games. Despite this loss, Katie Boulter quickly evened the score by defeating Caijsa Wilda Hennemann 6-2, 6-1.
Burrage had been patiently waiting for her debut in the BJK Cup. In the previous year, the 24-year-old was disappointed to not have been selected for the finals in Glasgow. However, after a successful season where she broke into the top 100, she made sure she was a clear choice for the team this time around.
At the beginning, Burrage appeared to be managing the situation effectively. Her strong serve and powerful shots gave her an early 4-0 advantage. However, things quickly turned downhill as she began making careless mistakes due to nerves and tension. Throughout the rest of the game, Burrage struggled to keep her shots in play against a persistent and steady Persson, only managing to win one more game.
According to Burrage, the pressure of playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon is nothing compared to representing her country in front of a packed arena with 5,500 enthusiastic fans. She noted that the experience is completely different when playing for oneself versus playing for a team. The pressure is not just on her, but also on her teammates and the expectation to perform well for others adds to the intensity.
The captain of Great Britain, Anne Keothavong, stated that Jodie has deserved the opportunity to compete. Jodie has had an exceptional year and is on track to finish in the top 100. Although it may be challenging for her, she will need to find a way to recover and continue earning a spot on the team.
There has always been confidence in Boulter’s capability to excel in this tournament, as she has consistently succeeded throughout her professional journey, even during times of struggle in other areas.
Boulter’s team counted on her to dominate her opponent who was ranked 474 spots lower at No. 532, compared to her own ranking of No. 58. Boulter confidently played an aggressive game, easily defeating Hennemann with controlled and precise shots.
On Sunday, the teams will come back and the victorious team will stay at the highest level of the Billie Jean King Cup until 2024. In the meantime, Keothavong will have to choose whether to let Burrage participate in the fourth round or to bring in either Harriet Dart or Heather Watson.
Boulter stated that they will give their best effort and do not use the word “should”. They acknowledge that their opponents will make an attempt and have no pressure. Their responsibility is to do their best and they trust that the girls will do the same.
Unfortunately, Jack Draper from Great Britain was unable to win his first ATP final despite an impressive performance throughout the week. In the final match of the Sofia Open, Draper lost to Adrian Mannarino with a score of 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-3.