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Aussies sizzle early

GLASGOW, United Kingdom (AFP) — Australia made a strong start to their Billie Jean King Cup Finals campaign as Ajla Tomljanovic and Storm Sanders sealed a 2-1 victory over Slovakia on the opening day of the tournament.

Billed as the world cup of women’s tennis, the Billie Jean King Cup Finals kicked off on Tuesday with Australia once again contenders for the title at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.
After reaching the semifinals last year and finishing as runners-up in the competition’s previous Fed Cup format in 2019, the Australians brushed aside Slovakia to show they will be in the hunt for the trophy.

Alicia Molik’s team, which had taken the place of banned 2021 champions Russia, won both singles matches in the Group B tie.

Sanders defeated Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-3, while Tomljanovic beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-1, 6-2.

Slovakia’s Kuzmova and Tereza Mihalikova saw off Sanders and Ellen Perez 2-6, 6-3, 10/6 in the dead rubber doubles.

The 12-team event comprises four groups of three countries, with each winner advancing to the semi-finals.

Each group tie consists of two singles matches and one doubles.

Australia can book their place in the semi-finals with a victory in their next tie against Belgium on Thursday.

“We have such a good team spirit. In our country we love sport, we love camaraderie and we love team events. I think a lot of our players thrive in this environment,” Tomljanovic said.

Tomljanovic’s dominant display was in keeping with an impressive year that saw her reach two Grand Slam quarter-finals and climb to a career-high 33rd in the WTA rankings.

The Australian number one, who has now won 22 of 31 matches, said: “If I have to put it to one thing, it’s just where my head is at in life. I’m happy. Tennis is fun again.”

Britain’s hopes of causing an upset in their Group C opener against Kazakhstan were dashed in a 2-1 defeat.

Britain were given a place as hosts but without injured former US Open champion Emma Raducanu, they were outgunned by Kazakhstan.

Katie Boulter’s 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 loss to Yulia Putintseva was followed by Harriet Dart’s 6-1, 6-4 loss to reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.

In the doubles, Britain’s Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls produced an impressive performance to defeat Rybakina and Anna Danilina 7-5, 6-3.

Britain could still qualify with victory over Spain on Thursday but that will be a dead rubber if Kazakhstan win their match against the Spaniards on Wednesday.

The Kazakhs claimed the noisiest supporters of the day, with their band of followers far louder than the sparse British crowd.

“I just appreciate having anyone supporting me right now. It would be nice to see a little bit rowdy crowd out there for sure,” Boulter said of the modest attendance.

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