Sanders and Haddad Maia win Heart Award19/12/2022 00:00
Billie Jean King Cup fans have selected Australia's Storm Sanders and Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia as their Heart Award winners for this year's Finals and Play-offs
Australia's Storm Sanders and Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia have been named as the Heart Award winners for this year's Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals and Play-offs, respectively.
The Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award aims to recognise players who have represented their country with distinction, shown exceptional courage on court and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the team.
The winners of the Heart Award earn donations to a charity of their choice - $10,000 (USD) for the Finals winner and $3,000 for the Play-offs winner.
Sanders saw off opposition from Great Britain's doubles pair of Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls, as well as the victorious Swiss duo of Belinda Bencic and Jil Teichmann in the public vote earlier this month.
Ranked outside the Top 200 at the Finals in Glasgow, Sanders won three of the four singles matches she played as Australia finished runners-up, with her only defeat coming to Teichmann, in three sets, in the opening match of the final. She also partnered Samantha Stosur to two doubles victories, including the decisive doubles match of the semi-final tie against Great Britain, with the pair defeating Barnett/Nicholls in a tense match tiebreak.
"I am extremely grateful and humbled to receive the Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award," Sanders said. "It is a huge honour to receive it because for me representing my country and my team is just something that I dream of doing and to be able to do that and to be recognised for my efforts and my courage is just really the cherry on top of an amazing week in Scotland.
"Thank you to every single person who gave me a vote. I feel really grateful and lucky to have received this, so thank you for your support."
Sanders' chosen charity is the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, which provides both primary and emergency healthcare to patients in rural and remote areas of the country.
In the Play-offs vote, Haddad Maia proved to be the fans' favourite in a poll against Slovenia's Kaja Juvan, Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk and Austria's Sinja Kraus.
The Brazilian, now ranked inside the world's Top 20, maintained her unbeaten Billie Jean King Cup season during her nation's triumph against Argentina last month. She recorded two victories – against Nadia Podoroska and Maria Lourdes Carle – to add to the five wins she claimed at the Americas Group I event in April.
"I am very happy with this award. This is an achievement I can share with all my team," Haddad Maia said. "This award is so special because it says so much about the attitude and value of players. And it is something that is part of my dreams, representing not only myself but my country and leave to a legacy for tennis. It gives me motivation to keep strong and to chase new goals for 2023."
Haddad Maia also earns the distinction of becoming the first player to win a Heart Award twice in one season since the initiative was launched in 2009, having also won the Heart Award for her performances at the Americas Group I event in April.
The 2023 Billie Jean King Cup season begins with the Qualifiers and the three regional Group I events in April.