Switzerland crowned 2022 Billie Jean King Cup champions

13/11/2022 00:00

Switzerland are Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge champions for the first time after a 2-0 victory over Australia in Glasgow

By Matt Roberts
Switzerland crowned 2022 Billie Jean King Cup champions

Switzerland are Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge champions for the first time after a 2-0 victory over Australia in Glasgow. 

The day’s drama came in the opening match as Jil Teichmann withstood an extraordinary effort from Storm Sanders to win 6-3 4-6 6-3 and give her side the lead. Belinda Bencic then got the Swiss over the line with a dominant 6-2 6-1 victory against Ajla Tomljanovic. 

It feels like a sweet piece of redemption for Switzerland who lost in last year’s final against the Russian Tennis Federation in controversial fashion.

"It's extremely sweet," said captain Heinz Guenthardt. "Maybe it's even sweeter after last year. I don't know... You obviously can't compare. We have been working for this a long time. Not just this week. Used to call it the Fed Express, trying to get to the end station, which is the [former event] title.

"[We] always stopped at the semi-final location or before, unfortunately, or last year in the finals. That one more was very difficult to come by, and when things are really difficult and you finally conquer it, it's super sweet."

All week they’ve been determined to go one step further and it’s fitting that Bencic - so dedicated to this competition over the years - should be the one to clinch the winning point. Her performance and victory against Tomljanovic feel like the crown jewel on a stellar career representing her country, which also includes an Olympic gold medal. 

Asked if coming so close last year gave her extra motivation, Bencic was emphatic: “Yes! We were finalists last year and we were so heartbroken. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much. But in the locker she [Teichmann] came to me and said that next year we’re going to take it. And we did! I’m so incredibly proud.” 

Swiss captain Heinz Guenthardt added: “It’s hard to describe in words. We didn’t win this just today, it was actually over years. A lot of it has to do with heart and this team has a lot of heart, let me tell you.” 

As for Australia, they too have suffered recent heartbreak in this event, losing a home final to France in 2019. Defeat today means they’ve now lost their last ten finals at the Billie Jean King Cup and their wait for a first title since 1974 goes on. 

“I’m extremely proud of my team,” said captain Alicia Molik. “It was a phenomenal effort all week from the Aussies. We gave it everything. But credit to the Swiss team - it was flawless tennis from Belinda.”

“We want to get back to another final. You have to keep chipping away, you can’t be despondent. Every year our level grows, every year we play great tennis in this format. We’ll return next year and we’ll be even hungrier, no doubt about that. I’m fortunate that I have a group of five mates. They bring out the best in each other.” 

Nobody has embodied that spirit better than Sanders who pushed Teichmann all the way in the day’s opening match. 

Guenthardt, as he’s been doing all week, rotated his line-up, bringing in Teichmann for Viktorija Golubic. With little to choose between the players in terms of quality, Gunenthardt says he makes a decision based on a “feeling”, and the fact that Teichmann beat Sanders 6-0 6-3 in last year’s World Cup of Tennis must have been a persuasive factor for him. 

It soon became apparent that this was a match-up which favoured the Swiss. After cruising through the first set, Teichmann went up a break in the second, coming out on top of a 26-shot rally en route to securing the advantage. It felt like the contest was heading to an inevitable conclusion, even more so when Sanders received a medical timeout for some treatment on her calf. Was all the tennis she’s played this week, winning important ties for her country, finally catching up with her? 

But Sanders refused to go down easily. Roared on by the support of her team, she dug deep to haul herself back into the contest, play more aggressively, and put herself in a position to win the set. Trailing 4-5, a nervy Teichmann cracked, double faulting on break point to hand Sanders the set.

It was the second time this week that Teichmann had led by a set and a break only to find herself in a decider, but this time she regrouped well, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead. 

What followed was an extraordinary sequence of play. Despite her injury, Sanders fought and fought, improbably levelling the set. Then, at 2-2 40-30, Sanders had the chance to move ahead for the first time in the match, but she dumped a simple smash into the net. It was an astonishing miss and it changed the momentum as Sanders ultimately surrendered her serve at the end of a ten-and-a-half-minute game with a double fault.

After saving break point with an inch-perfect forehand passing shot onto the line, Teichmann took control, and it wasn’t long before she had match point. The winning moment came as she struck a perfect forehand down the line. 

That set Bencic up to defeat Tomljanovic. It was a classy display. She broke early in the first set and was never behind in the score, outplaying her opponent from the baseline with her usual precision. But she admitted that she was feeling the occasion. 

“It was nerve-wracking. I gave so much energy in Jil’s match because I was trying to push her so much. Storm was playing incredible. Jil was amazing, she refused to lose and fought with everything she had. I was so inspired and I tried to do the same thing.”

As the celebrations began and the team were presented with their winners’ medals and jackets, Bencic had the final word, just as she did on court. 

“We will remember Glasgow for the rest of our lives.”