Billie Jean King Cup qualifying: How underdogs Great Britain beat France to reach finals

Home » Billie Jean King Cup qualifying: How underdogs Great Britain beat France to reach finals

Anne Keothavong says Great Britain’s victory over France in the Billie Jean King Cup is “certainly up there” with her greatest achievements as captain.

Katie Boulter and Emma Raducanu’s wins on Saturday saw Britain wrap up their qualifying tie 3-1 and book their place in November’s 12-team Finals.

It is the first time Great Britain have earned a spot in the Finals by right, having qualified as hosts in 2021.

Keothavong said it was a “huge milestone” to beat favourites France.

“I’m still in a bit of disbelief. The performances today from Katie and Emma were just incredible, they should be so proud of themselves,” Keothavong said.

“I’m pleased with not just their performances today but the whole team – it really has been a team effort.”

But how did self-proclaimed underdogs Great Britain beat France on their own turf?

Raducanu playing ‘best tennis of my life’

There were concerns Raducanu would not be available for the qualifiers following her withdrawal from last month’s Miami Open with a lower back injury.

But there were no signs of injuries as she produced two gritty comebacks in Le Portel.

Against strong-server Garcia, Raducanu matched her opponent for aces, while she withstood a late surge from Parry after missing two match points.

“Tennis-wise I have improved because I feel like I am playing the best tennis of my career and my life,” Raducanu said.

“To come through the moments that I did the last two days it took a strong character when the whole stadium is pretty much against you.”

After an injury-disrupted 2023 season, it was an achievement in itself that Raducanu managed to stay fit for two three-set matches.

Still on her comeback journey from wrist and ankle surgeries, impressive wins against top 50 players on an unfamiliar clay surface provides a promising glimpse of what is to come from the 2021 US Open champion.

“I thought Emma today showed real star quality with her performance,” Keothavong added.

“She was able to regroup after the initial disappointment. It was just amazing.”

‘Sweet’ messages and running jokes

Keothavong and her players have been quick to emphasise the squad’s team spirit throughout.

After her early loss to Parry, Boulter said she received “a very sweet message” from Raducanu that night.

“That was the main thing that got me through Saturday,” she told BBC Sport.

“It means a lot coming from someone like her. She’s such a star.”

Raducanu has been equally quick to praise her team-mates and coaches – and a team bonding trip to Italy could be on the cards.

“Me and Fran [team-mate Francesca Jones] are going to Tuscany and this was the running joke of the week so when we won we shouted ‘Tuscany’,” Raducanu explained afterwards.

“The rest of them are invited to our little weekend in Tuscany as well.”

Great Britain overcome poor clay record

It is fair to say Great Britain are not the most experienced on clay.

Boulter’s first ever Tour-level match on the surface was against Diane Parry on Friday – a match where she lost 12 games in a row in a 6-2 6-0 defeat.

Raducanu, meanwhile, had just six clay wins from 12 outings before this week, compared to French number one Garcia’s 131 tour-level victories on the surface.

But Boulter and Raducanu used the conditions to their advantage. The former stayed in long rallies, using the slower pace of the courts, while the latter fired in crisp drop shots and powerful returns.

“I kind of lost my identity on day one, I was trying to play like the stereotypical clay court player,” said Boulter after her win on Saturday.

“But I don’t have that in my bag. This is my second match on the tour on clay court, I’m still fresh and learning.”

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