Australia are playing the tournament match in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals for the 19th time in their history, with Storm Sanders achieving a single and doubles victory over his country Great Britain in a semi-final match that could not have been much closer.
On Saturday in Glasgow, Scotland, Sanders beat Heather Watson 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the opening singles match, but Britain’s Harriet Dart evened things out by upsetting Ajla Tomljanovic 7-6 (3), 6-2.
It reached the decisive doubles match, where Sanders returned and teamed with Samantha Stosur to score a thin 7-6 (1), 6-7 (5), [10-6] Victory over Britons Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nichols.
Australia will now face Switzerland in the championship match on Sunday. The Swiss will play for the title for the second year in a row after beating the Czech Republic to sweep the singles rubber. Viktorija Golubic started the day with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Karolina Muchova. Belinda Bencic sealed victory for Switzerland by coming down from 5-2 in the second set and saving a point to defeat Karolina Pliskova 6-2 7-6 (6).
Switzerland is seeking to win its first Billie Jean King Cup, having finished second in 2021 and 1998.
The Australians, who were Billie Jean King Cup runners-up as recently as 2019, are seeking their first tournament since 1974, when they won their seventh title in an 11-year period.
In the opening match of the day, Australian Sanders continued her impressive solo performance throughout the week. The 28-year-old is ranked in the top 10 in doubles but is number 237 in singles, however, Sanders has gone 3-0 in singles play in Glasgow so far.
Net raids and excellent passes gave left-handed Sanders the first set. In the second set, Sanders completely dominated the tiebreak, taking four of his first five points with the winners.
Sanders earned five game points with a 6-1 backhand win, and converted her third game point with another powerful backhand. Sanders ended the showdown after saving four of the five break points she faced.
However, the 98th Dart brought Great Britain back into the competition. WThe No. 33, quarter-finalist at the Grand Slam for the past two years, Tomljanovic had defeated Dart in their previous meeting, but Dart pulled off the surprise win in 1 hour 49 minutes.
Dart had an early break and a set point at 5-4 as Tomljanovic’s stern court coverage propelled her into the first set tiebreak. Despite this, Dart maintained her aggressive stance at the breaker, and the winner with a cross forehand gave her three extra points at 6-3.
Dart forced a long error from Tomljanovic on the second set point to take the set lead after 68 minutes, and the Briton passed the second set after that. Darts finished the match with 25 winners, more than double Tomljanovic’s 12 wins.
An intense doubles match to determine the finalist saw each set go the distance before the Australian took the lead after 92 minutes of play. Each duo broke twice in a match that could only be settled through the tiebreak, as the Australians pulled away with their final four-point win.
Australia saved two set points at 6-5 in the first set before dominating the tiebreak, with Sanders making a strong comeback thanks to Stosur’s breakout serve. However, Nichols’ strikes kept the British duo in play, and they squeaked in the second set tiebreak after Barnett’s win.
In the tiebreak, Barnett and Nichols grabbed the Australians’ 6-3 lead and reached a tie at 6-6. But a volleyball win from every Australian took them 8-6, and Stosur’s forehand win gave them three points in a 9-6 draw.
Australia needed just one, as Sanders’ last winning ball completed her special day with a second win, to take her team to the final.