Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers 2023: Three things we learnt from day two in Coventry
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Another well-fought Billie Jean King Cup tie in the bag for the Brits, but unfortunately this time, they were on the losing end of a close battle against a strong French side.
As the dust settles at the Coventry Building Society Arena after an action-packed weekend of tennis, here are a few of our takeaways from day two.
Dart is adaptable under pressure – even against the world’s best
When you look through the stats in the first match of the day, the one that stands out the most is Caroline Garcia’s winning percentage off Harriet Dart’s serve in the first set, which was largely dictated by her advanced position on court.
The world No.5 consistently found herself way up inside the baseline when returning, ready to attack straight from the off. Keeping the points shorter would always play into Garcia’s hands, with Dart having proved her brilliant court coverage and resilience in Friday’s match against Cornet, and the world No.5 had great success coming forward.
Garcia won 13 of 19 return points in the opening set and routinely pushed in towards the net, but in the second set, Dart found the response she needed. Recognising her opponent’s position and approach, the 26-year-old started to weave in more variation, particularly with the wide-angled first serve on the deuce side – giving Garcia little to no time and space on the return.
After three straight breaks in the opener, Dart only faced one break point in the second set, forcing Garcia to yet another tie-break. While both players struggled on serve in the breaker, she found her first serve at just the right time, to not only to save match point but to then give her the platform to force a fourth and final set point to take them into a decider.
Experience on the biggest stage ultimately showed
The Brits could have easily been on the winning side of this tie, having gone to six tie-breaks in just three matches, but in the end, it was the experience of the French team saw them over the line.
In the first match for example, Garcia found herself trailing several times – after losing the first set and then again with a break deficit in the decider. But time and time again she was able to capitlise on what she does best – particularly on serve, picking up huge aces on big points against an opponent playing at the top of her game in Boulter.
We saw it again from Garcia on day two. She raced out to an early set lead but then after Dart came back and clinched the second in a nervy tie-break it would have been easy to lose control of the match. But having consistently been at and won trophies at the highest level of the game just gives you that mental edge that served her to perfection in the closing stages.
Alize Cornet is one of the most experienced Billie Jean King Cup players out there, having made her debut 15 years ago in 2008. In the big moments of her rubber against Dart, despite being limited by a slight injury, she showed great calmness and experience to soak up the pressure and just edge those key points when it mattered the most.
For the Brits, this tie will serve as a positive learning experience and for Dart and Boulter they should see this as a sign that they are within touching distance of some of the best players in the game. Fine margins make tennis, but having this experience under their belt will stand them in good stead for November.
Barnett and Nicholls take the British spirit to another level
Watching Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls competing in the Billie Jean King Cup is everything this competition is all about. Huge roars of celebration, revving up the crowd after every point and leaving everything out there on the court – what’s more to love.
Having impressed on their GB debut in Glasgow, they were given a tough task in coming out after the tie had already been decided to face one of the best players in the world in Kristina Mladenovic and her partner Clara Burel.
Not only did they manage to clinch a hard-earned victory for the British team, but they did so after having to come from behind on multiple occasions. In the opening set they came back from 5-3 down to win four games in a row to clinch the first set, and then in the match tie-break, they fell 8-2 behind, before claiming nine of the last 10 points to put the seal on the win.
Barnett and Nicholls are well and truly cementing their place as Great Britain’s go-to doubles duo, boasting a 3-1 winning record.