Storm Sanders continued their extraordinary Billie Jean King Cup run to help Australia book a place in the team championship final, thanks to nail-biting Semi-final victory over Britain.
Saturday’s memorable victory in Glasgow raised the prospect of winning Australia’s first title in 48 years since the victorious Yvonne Golagong led, with Sanders once again.
Sanders dropped England’s Heather Watson in her singles rubber, before turning back to veteran Australian partner Sam Stosur in a win-win doubles match, after defeating Ajla Tomljanovic in the 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 critical hiatus in his loss to Harriet Dart.
The Briton – ranked 65 below the highest-ranked Australian star – beat Tomljanovic 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 to leave the tie on a knife edge.
Sanders was once again a powerful inspiration for Australia, defying her world low ranking of 237 as she topped world number 133 Watson despite feeling queasy about a leg injury that required off-court physical therapy after the first set.
She then returned less than two hours later to take part in the doubles by Stosur, where a super tie-breaker was needed at the Emirates Circuit.
Sanders and Stosur impressively kept their nerve as the home crowd tried to lift British duo Olivia Nichols and Alicia Barnett.
With scores at 6-6 in the crucial super breaker from 1st to 10th, the Australian pair were super charged after the final change, making four winning strokes between them to finally outlast 7-6 (7-1) 6-7 (5-7). ) [10-6] The victory that made Australia 2-1 in the semi-finals.
“I can’t really speak now, I’m trembling,” said an emotional Sanders during her in-court interview after proving the Australian champion in the semi-final victory.
Despite being ranked No. 237 in the world, Sanders has stepped up the women’s tag team competition and recognized the honor of representing her country, taking her game to new levels.
“I just go out and do my job on the court, and I think in that form and representing Australia, the arrangement goes out the window,” Sanders added.
“I thrive in this 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, winning is just the cherry on top.”
The 28-year-old’s brilliant moment left the tennis world in awe as fans took to social media to sing praises to Sanders.
Australia confident of themselves before the final against Switzerland
The victory left Australia captain Alicia Molik confident that her squad of fighters are now ready to crown the world champions when they face Switzerland in Sunday’s final in Glasgow.
“It’s ours. Today, Australia has really shown our fighting spirit. We’ll have it tomorrow as well. It’s exciting,” Molick said excitedly afterwards.
Three years ago, Molik led the team that painfully lost in the final against France in Perth.
But this time around, she is convinced her team can beat the odds even though they will be underdogs against Switzerland, who Olympic champion Belinda Bencic beat Karolina Pliskova in straight sets to secure a 2-0 win 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 the semi-finals last year.
Stosur – 19 since she first played in the event then known as the FA Cup – was once again a rock for her inspirational partner as Sanders won her fifth rubber this week.
That was the 39th BJK Cup win for the 38-year-old’s career – and nothing could have been more significant.
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’d definitely rather play than watch.”
Instead, she has now won two crucial matches with Sanders this week.
“I wanted to try to help the team in any way I could. If it’s on the field, that’s great; if it’s encouraging from the sidelines, that’s fine too.”
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