As the tournament many would describe as the ‘World Cup of Women’s Tennis’, the Billie Jean King Cup is a prestigious tournament. When it is held, nations send their best players to try and earn a major tournament win. This year, several of the favourite nations have not done as well as expected, while other nations – chiefly Australia – have dazzled. Indeed, Australian starlet Storm Sanders has said that taking her country to the semi-finals is a ‘dream come true ‘ – and how can one argue?
Australia has never been a tennis powerhouse, despite being the home of one of the major Grand Slam tournaments. Though many excellent Australian tennis players have played on the WTA and ATP circuits, few have been at the peak of the sport. Therefore, the impressive form shown by underdog Sanders has been a huge boon for the nations tennis achievements.
Indeed, she overcame Yuilya Hatouka in a 6-3, 6-3 match-up in what was seen as a pretty major shock to the system. However, what also happened to really throw the cat amongst the pigeons was the comeback of Alja Tomljanovic, who overcame Aliaksandra Sasnovich. This gives Australia a major lead over Belarus, who has been suffering from a loss of several stars, in the group tie.
An overall 2-1 victory for the Australians was enough to send them through to the semis finals, where they will face up against Switzerland. The Swiss took out the Czech Republic in what was a match-up between two of the dark horses. Australia, though, has the talent and now the momentum to keep the feelgood factor going and the progress consistent.
In what was a major shock, then, the Australians look like they could go all the way and lift this prestigious prize for the first time.
Young Australian stars leading the way
Tomljanovic has come through quite a challenge so far, having missed the opening victory against Belgium due to an illness. Her resilience and grit was on display, though, as she came through to help her nation get to the last four. Indeed, her win against Sasnovich was not a major surprise – at No 43 she ranks the best part of 45 places above her opponent – but her injury had left her playing with a fraction of her usual freedom.
As such, the Australian No 2 had to dig deep and find her form to overcome a tough opponent who was more than ready for her. Speaking after the match-up, Tomljanovic said: “There’s no greater feeling. The fact that I got a point makes me unbelievably happy. I just feel like I came here to help the team and ended up doing that, so that makes me happy.”
The match-up against the Swiss will likely be a step up given the players who are missing for Belarus, including Aryna Sabalenka the world no 2. Victoria Azarenka has missed out, too, meaning that Australia was given a rare chance to overcome one of the most talented nations in tennis at present.
Now, fans wait to see if they can keep the feel-good factor going for a little while longer. If they can reach the Final, it would be a landmark achievement for a nation with a proud tennis history but few genuine winners at the highest level.