PRAGUE – (dpa) – Russia won both individual games and defeated Switzerland 2-0 in the final of the Billie Jean King Cup on Saturday, thus taking the trophy for the fifth time.
Liudmila Samsonova rallied around the crucial point with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over the Olympic champion from Tokyo in the singles, Belinda Bencic.
“There are too many emotions now,” said Samsonova. “It’s incredible. I’m incredibly happy.”
Daria Kasatkina gave Russia a 6: 2, 6: 4 win over Jil Teichmann 1: 0.
The competition was formerly known as the Fed Cup. The trophy includes $ 1.2 million in prize money for the winner and an additional $ 650,000 for the Russian Tennis Association.
Samsonova broke the Swiss star in the opening game of the last set and held out when Bencic’s backhand sailed long.
Bencic stayed calm in the opening set against the powerful Russian, who made 16 easy mistakes compared to her three and scored the key break in the eighth game.
Samsonova improved in the second set, taking 14 winners before serving him.
The 22-year-old Samsonova defeated Sloane Stephens 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 and together with Veronika Kudermetova won the doubles in the semifinals on Friday against the USA on her debut for Russia.
She replaced the originally elected Russian number 1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the last minute. Pavlyuchenkova retired due to an injury to his left leg.
Russia has all of its players in the top 50.
Samsonova’s victory came after beating Bencic twice that year in WTA tournaments in Berlin (finals) and Luxembourg (quarter-finals).
In a dominant performance, Kasatkina shot a forehand winner to break a breakpoint in game seven of the second set, which she converted to a 4-3 lead. She couldn’t hold her serve in the following game, but got another break to 5-4 before serving the match with her first match point.
The Russian stormed the opening movement, broke Teichmann three times and dropped her serve once.
“I think the beginning was very important, we were both nervous, but I managed the nerves a little better,” said Kasatkina.
It was the Russian’s second win in the tournament after beating Canada’s Carol Zhao in the group stage to improve her competitive record to 5-1, while Teichmann saw her first loss after three wins.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Kasatkina. “I won the first game (in the group stage), now I’m playing in the final and I’m happy to have brought this very important point to my team.”
Russia had reached its first final since 2015 in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.
The Swiss reached their first final since the runner-up in 1998, their only final.
The 12 teams in the tournament were divided into four groups of three in a new competition format. Only the group winners reached the semifinals.
Russia dominated Group A of the tournament after beating defending champions France and Canada before eliminating the US in the semi-finals.
The United States is the most successful nation in the competition with 18 trophies.
Switzerland moved from Group D, considered the toughest of the tournament, to the semi-finals, defeating both the Czech Republic and Germany along the way.
In the semifinals, the Swiss defeated Australia 2-0 and won both individual games.
The Prague tournament failed to attract bigger names like Garbiñe Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka, who were getting ready for Wednesday’s WTA final in Guadalajara, Mexico.
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