Italy 2-0 Slovenia: Italy to contest first BJK Cup final since 201311/11/2023 09:55
Italy have beaten Slovenia and will contest their first Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge final since 2013
By Matt Roberts
Italy are through to the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge final courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Slovenia.
That is a straightforward scoreline which does not properly reflect how the matches unfolded, with both Martina Trevisan and Jasmine Paolini having to battle through bruising encounters to keep up their unbeaten records this week.
Trevisan overcame Kaja Kuvan 7-6 6-3 before Paolini sealed the tie with a 6-2 4-6 6-3 victory against Tamara Zidansek, sending Italy back into the final of this competition for the first time since 2013.
“I think it's a dream come true, because we all dream about this final," said Italian captain Tathiana Garbin. “I think we just realised that we are in the final maybe only now. It’s a very good dream.”
The first singles match was somewhat of an ordeal, with both players struggling throughout the 2h20m contest. Juvan’s hands were shaking constantly and Trevisan could be seen in tears at one changeover.
While the stats showed more than 100 unforced errors between the two players, the high-quality defence and indomitable spirit of both players ensured that the rallies were prolonged and gruelling.
In a match of fine margins, Juvan will regret double faulting on her set point in the first set tiebreak, and as much as the Slovenian scrapped and hustled in the second set, Trevisan could not be stopped.
“She’s a great player, she’s a brave player," Trevisan said afterwards. “The emotions today were very high and maybe this made her a little bit tight. But even with a lot of difficulties she fought on every ball.
“I’m not very happy about the tennis today, but I have to accept that we were in an important match. It was my first semi-final here in this competition, and when you are on court and you are not playing just for you but you are playing for an entire country, for all the team, for my teammates, it’s not easy to manage the emotions.
“So at the end of the first set, I had to be happy because I won the set, but I was crying. Kaja went to the toilet, and I said to Tathiana, ‘oh, that’s better because I need the time to recover from the first set’. Too many emotions to manage. But the heart and head were there, so I’m very happy.”
The tie went from one epic match to another as Paolini outlasted Zidansek in the second singles. With so little to choose between the two players, once again a double fault proved crucial, costing Zidansek her service game at 4-3 in the decider and allowing Paolini the chance to serve it out, which she did comfortably.
Reaching the final of the Billie Jean King Cup is the culmination of a brilliant season for the Italian players. All five players in the team – Paolini, Trevisan, Lucia Bronzetti, Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Lucrezia Stefanini – have reached their career-high singles ranking in 2023. The significance of the fact, and the trajectory of Italian tennis in the last few years, is all part of what makes captain Garbin so proud of her team.
“We came three years ago from the very ground and we grow up a little bit every year. This year we came here with all best ranking of my players, so we have to be really happy. The Federation is very happy for what these girls are doing every day.
“Sometimes it's not the results, because we judge the players for the results. But I know the hard work they are doing every single day. I'm pushing this, because it's the mentality I like from them. They have a growing mentality. That's why we have to promote this mentality for the young kids that want to start this game.
“What they have done it's something incredible, but as we say the other day, we are not satisfied. We want always to push ourselves to the limit, and we try to dream again tomorrow.”
For Paolini, Sunday’s final will be a full circle moment. She was in the stands as a fan in Cagliari the last time Italy won the Billie Jean King Cup in 2013, with Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci leading them to victory over Russia. Did she ever think she could be in that position herself one day?
“I didn’t expect it. But of course it’s a dream come true. Let’s play the final tomorrow.”