Vondrousova targets 'dream' Finals win after ending Ukraine fightback

15/04/2023 00:00

Marketa Vondrousova put a stop to a stirring fightback from Ukraine to continue her near-impeccable record for her country and seal Czechia’s place in the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals

By Jamie Renton
Vondrousova targets 'dream' Finals win after ending Ukraine fightback

Marketa Vondrousova put a stop to a stirring fightback from Ukraine to continue her near-impeccable record for her country and seal Czechia’s place in the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals.

The former world No. 14 saw off a determined showing from Katarina Zavatska, after Marta Kostyuk’s earlier upset of world No. 12 Barbora Krejcikova, to clinch a 3-1 triumph for Petr Pala’s side in their Qualifier at the Megasaray Club Belek in Antalya.

Vondrousova’s 6-4 6-3 win over Zavatska was her 10th consecutive victory for her country in the Billie Jean King Cup, with her only blemish in the competition a defeat to Coco Vandeweghe on her debut in 2017.

Competing in country colours brings out the best in the world No. 82, whose ranking - which suffered following her break from the tour due to a second wrist surgery last year - continues to belie her talents.

“I always love to play [for my country] since I was a child,” said Vondrousova, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallist. “We had under 14, under 16 teams and it’s a dream to play for Czech because they won [this competition] so many times. It’s very nice to be in the team and to fight for them also.”

Vondrousova has emerged as a leader, rather than a supporting cast member, of the latest incarnation of the ever-formidable Czech Billie Jean King Cup team, which will go for a 12th triumph in the competition at this November’s Finals.

“I think it’s a dream for all of us,” said Vondrousova at the prospect of winning Czechia’s first title since 2018. “We are a new team. We have young girls who are playing great tennis. We can be a very strong team.

“We are just a few steps away. In Prague [in 2021], also in Glasgow [last year], we had tough matches, groups, but I think we are hungry for the title [this year].”

With nine players in the WTA’s current Top 100, captain Petr Pala knows he is spoilt for choice.

“Obviously it’s a huge advantage for our team that we can choose so many players,” he said. “I don’t know the surface [for the Finals] yet – I expect hard court indoors somewhere in the world – but I know that every time we play we have a chance to win.

“We will do everything to play for the cup [this year].”

For Ukraine, hopes of playing for the overall prize may have been dashed for another year, but they had plenty to be proud of from this Qualifier tie – particularly through their second day performance.

Kostyuk, who hit back from a set and a break down to beat Krejcikova for a third time in her career, was pleased with the level she was able to bring after a tough loss to Vondrousova on day one.

“[It was a] big battle,” she said. “That’s what I was expecting. That’s what I wanted. Given how the match was going yesterday I really wanted to have a fight to gain back this confidence as a player.

“I’m really happy that I managed to find myself, my game, come back in the match, turn it around and fight.”

Zavatska showed that same grit, earning a double break against Vondrousova with chances to serve out a 4-0 opening set lead, only for the Czech to turn things around and secure an all-important Finals spot for her nation.