Billie Jean King Cup qualifying: Emma Raducanu win brings GB level against France

Sat, Apr 13, 2024
By editor
5 MIN READ

Sports

EMMA Raducanu produced a superb comeback to beat Caroline Garcia and level Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup qualifying tie against France.

Raducanu grew in confidence as she beat world number 28 Garcia 3-6 6-3 6-2 on the clay court in Le Portel.

Anne Keothavong’s side had been on the back foot after British number one Katie Boulter suffered a chastening 6-2 6-0 loss to Diane Parry.

The best-of-five tie concludes on Saturday.

Raducanu’s well-documented injury struggles have limited her time on the clay, as well as her appearances for her country.

She trailed former world number four Garcia by a set and a break before things truly clicked into place for her, with her serve, forehand and a series of blistering returns helping her out.

Despite an entertaining moment where Raducanu started to celebrate victory before realising the score was only 5-1, the 21-year-old looked dialled in and, crucially, still fresh as she sealed a hard-fought victory.

Raducanu said afterwards: “I don’t know what happened. It was quite embarrassing!

“All I was thinking was: If I lose this, I’m going to look a right muppet. So I’m very happy I managed to pull it through.”

The hope for Britain now will be that she is able to replicate her form in tomorrow’s reverse singles, with the winner of the tie advancing to November’s 12-team finals.

Raducanu brings her best against Garcia

This was, by some distance, Raducanu’s best performance on clay – and arguably one of her best of the year against a high-quality opponent.

Garcia, an experienced BJK Cup campaigner, was on top in the opening stages, often producing big, brave shots whenever Raducanu looked to be working her way into her service game.

The two traded breaks in the first set before Garcia closed it out, and she quickly went up a break in the second before Raducanu upped her own aggression.

Firing the ball back at Garcia, she reeled off six of the final seven games to take the match to a deciding set.

Raducanu targeted Garcia’s backhand in the third set, with Garcia bouncing her racquet off the red clay in frustration as the Briton went an early break up.

The partisan crowd did their best to rally Garcia, who looked emotional towards the end, but Raducanu coped well with the noise, closing out all the distractions before wrapping up the match with a smash at the net.

Given she will likely be called on again tomorrow to play Parry, Raducanu now faces the challenge of maintaining her fitness and intensity for a second day running.

“I really loved going out there at 1-0 down and knowing I had to perform to get the team equal. I love that responsibility on my shoulders,” Raducanu said.

“It’s probably one of my strengths. I went out there and was like: OK, it’s all you today.

“I had to really dig deep and be super-physical just to be competitive. I’m very pleased with how I held up.”

Boulter ‘felt like underdog – and it showed’

Much like Raducanu, Boulter’s clay-court appearances over the years have been limited by back and foot injuries, with the Englishwoman joking on Thursday she had “nothing against” the surface.

She started well, winning the first two games of the match, but then lost 12 in a row as Parry mixed power with deft touch.

Parry had looked nervous, perhaps briefly overwhelmed by the packed crowd, but she channelled the noise and cheers well.

It looked as though Boulter would stop the rot as she got to 40-0 on serve at 5-2 down but a series of errors, not helped by her first serve disappearing, gave Parry a set point, and a poor slap into the net tape gave the Frenchwoman the opening set.

That was all the encouragement Parry needed. Her one-handed backhand – a rare sight in the women’s game – mixed with heavy forehand hitting helped keep an increasingly frustrated Boulter out of the match.

“Today the scoreline was tough but it was a lot closer than it seemed,” Boulter said.

“On paper, you could say I’m supposed to win but she’s a very good clay courter and I felt like the underdog out there and it showed.”

Analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller in Le Portel

Garcia, who has been a French Open singles quarter-finalist, had worked hard to establish a set and a break advantage over Raducanu – which made what followed all the more impressive.

Rock solid serving, attacking intent and minimal errors gave Raducanu an ultimately comfortable victory – and a reminder that clay should be a surface on which she can prosper.

And this in only her second clay court match since May 2022.

Raducanu will very likely have to win again on Saturday. Garcia will start as clear favourite against Boulter in the first match, and with Garcia and the multiple Grand Slam champion Kristina Mladenovic available for the doubles, France will still take some stopping.

BBC

13th April, 2024.’

C.E.

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