Storm Sanders continued her exceptional run in the Billie Jean King Cup to help Australia book a place in the Team Championship final, thanks to a nail-biting Semi-final victory over Great Britain.
Saturday’s memorable victory in Glasgow raised the prospect of a first title in the competition for Australia in 48 years since the victorious Yvonne Goolagong, with Sanders once again leading.
Sanders dropped England’s Heather Watson in her singles rubber, before returning to veteran Australian partner Sam Stosur in a winner-takes-all doubles match, after defeating Ajla Tomljanović in her second singles match.
Sanders suffered a leg injury to defeat Watson 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) in the opening singles rubber, however Tomljanovic suffered a serious setback in his loss to Harriet Dart.
The Briton — ranked 65 below the top-ranked Australian star — beat Tomljanovic 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 to leave a knife-edge tie.
Sanders was again a powerful inspiration for Australia, challenging her low world ranking of 237 as she outlasted world No. 133 Watson despite being troubled by a leg injury that required physical treatment off the court after the first set.
She then returned less than two hours later to partner Stosur in the doubles, as a super tie-breaker was needed at the Emirates Circuit.
Sanders and Stosur impressively held their nerve as the home crowd tried to lift British duo Olivia Nichols and Alicia Barnett.
With the scores at 6-6 in the deciding first-to-10 superbreaker, the Australian pair were supercharged after final change, pulling off four winning strokes between them to finally edge out 7-6 (7-1) 6-7 (5-7). ) [10-6] The win saw Australia win 2–1 in the semi-final.
“I can’t really speak right now, I’m shaking,” Sanders said emotionally during her on-court interview after proving champion Australia in the semi-final victory.
Despite being ranked No. 237 in the world, Sanders has stepped up the women’s team competition and recognized the honor of representing her country, and has taken her game to new levels.
Sanders added, “I just go out and do my thing on the field, and I think in that form and representing Australia, the arrangement goes out the window.”
“I thrive in that environment, where the team is around us, not just on the field but the week before. Then obviously during my game, I can look at them and get support and energy from them.
“I’m just trying to do my part for the team, and getting wins is just the cherry on top.”
The 28-year-old’s breakthrough moment left the tennis world in awe as fans took to social media to sing Sanders’ praises.
Australia is confident ahead of the final against Switzerland
The victory left Australian captain Alicia Molik confident that her team of fighters are now ready to be crowned world champions when they take on Switzerland in the final on Sunday in Glasgow.
“She’s ours. Today, Australia really showed our fighting spirit. We’ll bring her tomorrow too. It’s exciting,” Molik said excitedly afterwards.
Three years ago, Molik led the team that was painfully defeated in the final by France in Perth.
But this time she is convinced her team can beat the odds even though they will be underdogs against Switzerland, who beat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic over Karolina Pliskova in straight sets to seal a 2-0 victory over 11-times defending champions Czech Republic.
“We have the team, I think, to qualify tomorrow. We still make up for the final we lost in 2019,” said Molik, whose team lost to Switzerland in last year’s semi-finals.
Stosur – 19 years since she first played in the event then known as the Fed Cup – was once again a rock for her inspirational partner as Sanders won her fifth rubber of the week.
This was the 39th BJK Cup win of the 38-year-old Stosur’s career – and it couldn’t have been more important.
The former US Open champion, who felt she might spend the week cheering on the bench after not winning a match since June, smiled: “I definitely prefer playing to watching.”
Instead, she has now won two crucial matches with Sanders this week.
“I wanted to try to help the team in whatever way I could. If it’s on the field, great; if it’s cheering on the sidelines, that’s fine too.”
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