Vondrousova targets 'dream' Finals win after ending Ukraine fightback15/04/2023 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
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.