The Russian women’s team became the first winner of the renewed team tournament, which is now called the Billie Jean King Cup. In the final, our girls beat the Swiss team led by the 17th racket of the world Belinda Benchich. The resistance of the Olympic champion Tokyo 2020 was broken by Lyudmila Samsonova – one of the main discoveries of the current season. The first point for the national team in the final was brought by Daria Kasatkina, who turned out to be stronger than Gil Belen Teichman.
13 years later
Russian tennis players won the main international tournament – however, then it was also called the Federation Cup – four times, from 2004 to 2008. It is curious that 13 years after the victorious final with Spain, three of the four members of that team are still in the ranks. Svetlana Kuznetsova plays without interruption, and Vera Zvonareva and Elena Vesnina made long pauses in their careers, but returned to the court. Therefore, it is even surprising that in almost a decade and a half, Russia has not been able to win the fifth title.
Although there were excellent chances for this. The Russians have lost three times in the finals. In 2011 and 2015, the Czech national team, which dominated the Federation Cup for the entire decade, stood between them and the trophy, and in 2013 – Italy. Compositions and circumstances were different, the result was the same. And in 2021, a new opportunity presented itself to Russia in the first draw of the Billie Jean King Cup (this was the new name of the tournament). This time our opponents should be girls from Switzerland who have never taken the title. The final was for them the second in history after a pause of 23 years.
Photo: REUTERS / David Cerny
Indeed, Kuznetsova, Zvonareva and Vesnina are still playing, and Elena even took Olympic silver in mixed doubles last summer. But a new time is coming – and he has new heroines. In the current Billie Jean King Cup final, Lyudmila Samsonova became the face of the national team. The debutante of the national team is in great shape. She started the tournament in a duet with Veronika Kudermetova, although she usually does not play a couple. And in the semifinals with the United States, Samsonova came out alone, taking part in both victorious meetings.
And when, on the day of the final, sad news came from the team’s camp that the team leader Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had dropped out due to injury, Samsonova was entrusted her place. So the tennis player with the lowest rating among the members of the national team became her first racket. And she had to play against the Olympic champion of Tokyo – Belinda Benchich.
This season, Samsonova has already defeated Bencic, although before the start of this meeting, the Swiss chances looked much better. Which she proved during the first set. Bencic made only three unforced mistakes and looked very confident. Let the Russian woman make a break in the third game, but the fourth started with two double faults and gave the initiative to her opponent for a long time. It seemed that Samsonova simply had nothing to oppose to the eminent opponent.
But the second game began for Lyudmila with the hardest game, in which she played four break points. And it was this local success that became the starting point – Samsonova added exactly the punches, gradually imposed Benchich on the second fight and made a break in the match. And this time she brought the matter to the end, having equalized the score in sets. And then she also started the third with the fact that she took Benchich’s serve in the first game.
There were still several long and very difficult games ahead. The match lasted for almost two and a half hours, Benchich fiercely resisted. More than once the games ended in a thin one. But Samsonova did not give her back. Russia has a fifth title. Russia has a new star. About which I want to talk only in enthusiastic tones.
Photo: REUTERS / David Cerny
– Russia is the world champion! It is impossible to describe this week, it is an incredible achievement. Insanely happy! Thanks to our team, and, of course, huge thanks to our captain [Игорю Андрееву]- wrote Samsonova on her Twitter.
Even before that, Daria Kasatkina, who returned to the court after two matches in reserve, contributed her victorious contribution. Recall that at the start of the final tournament, she easily dealt with Carol Zhao from Canada, but with France, the headquarters of the national team preferred Daria to Ekaterina Alexandrov. In the semifinals against the United States, Kasatkina could have played in a decisive doubles meeting, but the coaches decided not to break up the duet of Kudermetova and Samsonova.
But when it became necessary, Kasatkina went out and played. And she played great. Her rival was Jill Teichmann, who started the tournament as a pair, but by the semifinals had replaced Victoria Golubich as the second choice in singles. As it was, Dasha did not stay in the reserve at all. In the first set, she acted very reliably, making only four unforced mistakes, while her opponent – four times more. Therefore, it is not surprising that Kasatkina went to court and won five games in a row, including three on someone else’s serves. The first set flew by like an instant.
The second came out more viscous. Teichmann did not make less mistakes, but at the same time she managed to impose a struggle. Kasatkina made such a necessary break point only in the seventh game. But then she lost four goals in a row and allowed her opponent to make a quick reverse break. Without losing her peace of mind, Kasatkina still managed to take two more games in a row, albeit not without annoying mistakes. And she brought Russia the first point that evening.
In an even shape
As the saying goes, “it was a glorious hunt.” Which, we recall, began for the Russian national team back in February last year. Then the team played the hardest qualifying match against Romania, in which Aleksandrova shone. The coronavirus made this a record long journey, but the game was worth the candle. Russian tennis players are again the best in the world. Let’s enjoy this moment.
Russian women’s tennis team – winners of the updated team tournament, Billie Jean King Cup
Photo: REUTERS / David Cerny
“This year we have a more even team, the girls were drawn to each other,” Anna Chakvetadze, the ex-fifth racket of the world, told Izvestia. – A new motivated player appeared in the team – Samsonova, for her it was a new experience. Usually, these glowing-eyed players bring freshness to the team. No one fell out strongly, everyone was in more or less even shape, and this gave a result. Pavlyuchenkova and Kasatkina played experimentally, and it turned out to be a good mix. Congratulations.
Note that in connection with anti-doping sanctions against Russian sports, the team played at the tournament as the national team of the Russian Tennis Federation.