Emma Raducanu ends GB’s Billie Jean Cup jinx in finest display since US Open win


Emma Raducanu celebrates victory over Diane Parry at the Billie Jean King Cup

Emma Raducanu overcame a partisan crowd to clinch a momentous victory – Getty Images/Daniel Derajinsk

Emma Raducanu ended a decades-long jinx for Britain’s women with a spectacular performance, surely her finest since the 2021 US Open final, to defeat Diane Parry in front of a raucous French crowd.

The win wrapped up Great Britain’s stunning and unexpected 3-1 victory over France – the sixth-ranked team in this competition – and sends them on to November’s Billie Jean King Cup finals in Seville.

This is the first time that the Brits have qualified for the new-look finals week on merit, even if they earned a wild card in 2022 by virtue of hosting the competition in Glasgow. For the last comparable showing, you would have to go back to 1990, when a team featuring Jo Durie and Clare Wood lost to Austria in the quarter-finals.

“I don’t know who said Brits can’t play on clay,” said a triumphant Raducanu after her 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 win, which occupied fully 2hr 52min. “But today was a bit of a test of it that [showed] we can.”

Emma Raducanu embraces GB team captain Anne KeothavongEmma Raducanu embraces GB team captain Anne Keothavong

Raducanu embraces GB team captain Anne Keothavong – Getty Images/Aurelien Meunier

It’s hard to know what was more impressive: the technical level of Raducanu’s tennis throughout, the endurance that she showed by staging her second comeback win from a set down in as many days, or the mental steel that saw her bounce back from missing two match points in her penultimate service game.

Suffice to say, this was a magnificent occasion and ended in a grand finale when Raducanu dominated the final set tie-break with a flawless series of points, landing every first serve and producing some magical returns to boot.

She has never played in an atmosphere like this before, with at least two-and-a-half thousand French fans barracking her in a venue that is justly named Le Chaudron (The Cauldron). But she channelled the negative energy into her strokeplay, finding deep reserves of energy and inspiration when she needed them most.

The significance of this result should not be underestimated, for Great Britain have not defeated another grand-slam nation in the BJK Cup (formerly the Fed Cup) since 1981, when Sue Barker and Virginia Wade filled the singles spots. For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, the team was stuck in the second or even third tier of the competition alongside minnows like Armenia or Egypt.

“I’m very happy to make it to the Finals,” Raducanu said after her win, “and I think that after all those tries, we deserve it on our own merit.”

Katie Boulter, Emma Raducanu, Heather Watson, Harriet Dart, Franceska Jones and GB captain Anne Keothavong hold a banner saying 'Qualified'Katie Boulter, Emma Raducanu, Heather Watson, Harriet Dart, Franceska Jones and GB captain Anne Keothavong hold a banner saying 'Qualified'

Left to right: Katie Boulter, Emma Raducanu, Heather Watson, Harriet Dart, Franceska Jones and GB captain Anne Keothavong hold a banner saying ‘Qualified’ – Getty Images/Aurelien Meunier

She also made a point of crediting her team-mate Katie Boulter, who had scored a 7-5, 6-0 win over Clara Burel earlier in the day to register her first ever Tour-level victory on clay.

“Katie did a great job this morning and it helped so much going into this match, knowing that we were 2-1. In the worst-case scenario it goes to a deciding doubles. But I didn’t want to get to that point, obviously, because they have one of the best, probably the best doubles team in the world.”

Earlier, Boulter had ascribed much of her own success to a message she received overnight from Raducanu, consoling her about the 6-2, 6-0 towelling she suffered at the hands of Parry on the first day.

“I definitely replayed that match quite a few times last night,” said Boulter, who admitted that she hadn’t slept much. “I actually just wanted to improve on my performance.

“The most important thing was that I came out today and I fought, and I just kept fighting. I just played my way. I actually got a very, very sweet message from Emma last night which really kick-started my day after her incredible performance [against Caroline Garcia on the first afternoon].

“That was the main thing that got me through today. She said a few nice words which means a lot coming from someone like her. She’s such a star and I have a lot of respect for what she’s done in the sport and the way that she plays and how relentless she is. I have a lot to learn from her.”

Katie Boulter celebrates beating Clara BurelKatie Boulter celebrates beating Clara Burel

Katie Boulter celebrates beating Clara Burel – Getty Images/Aurelien Meunier

The French came in with the higher ranking, the home advantage and the greater expertise on clay. But they also have a reputation for flakiness. On this occasion, that extended to a curious decision from captain Julien Benneteau to drop their best player in favour of Burel, who had only played one previous singles match in the competition.

Burel served for the first set against Boulter, but was broken, whereupon her nerve seemed to desert her. By the final game of an increasingly one-sided match she could barely find the court and was being jeered by her own supporters. One can only hope that Burel is not too scarred by the experience, as she is a former world junior No1 who can go on to achieve much in the game.

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