Contribution by Janice North, a BATS member – April 2019.
I joined my fellow BATS supporters on Day 2 of the Fed Cup play-off between Great Britain and Kazakhstan, and what a thrilling day of play we were all treated to.
This play-off would be the fifth in eight years whereby Great Britain had sought promotion to the World Group and with the score from the previous day standing at 1-1, both teams still had everything to play for.
First up on Day 2 was the battle of the respective team number 1’s, Johanna Konta and Yulia Putintseva. The gutsy Kazakh took the first set 6-4, prompting an immediate and defiant response from Konta in the second set. She systematically muted the noisy Kazakh band’s drums and trumpet throughout by breaking Putintseva twice, winning 68% of the total points to take the second set 6-2 and level the match.
With momentum now clearly with our Brit, a slightly reserved optimism was in the British crowd, as we were all too mindful of Putintseva’s ability to come from behind to win.
However, it was Konta who prevailed, demonstrating dogged determination to fight back from a 1-4 deficit. A time violation which had preceded a double break against her, fuelled a spectacular and steely comeback. Konta went on to win 16 of the last 19 points to secure her 11th successive Fed Cup singles victory, leaving the door well and truly open for her team mate Katie Boulter.
With the score now at 2-1 to Great Britain and just the one win required to secure promotion to the world group, the stage was set for the No2 showdown between Katie Boulter and Zarina Diyas.
Having just watched Konta’s fight back, Boulter knew she had everything to play for. However, a very close first set which culminated in a tiebreak, resulted in a flattening 1-7 loss of the set. Furthermore this was swiftly followed by Boulter going down a break in the second set too and for a time it seemed that Boulter was losing her grip on the match, just as Diyas appeared to be enjoying an apparent ascendancy. However the fortuitous sounding of a car alarm going off heralded a double-faulting which allowed Boulter back into the match to level at 2-2.
By this time, some drums had been acquired from seemingly nowhere by some of the British spectators which helped to match the resurgent cacophony of the Kazakh band. At this point, the atmosphere in the Copper Box Arena began to reach fever pitch, propelling Boulter onwards to break again and take the second set 6-4.
The third and final set produced nothing short of a spectacular whirlwind of determination from Boulter who romped through the gears to a 5-1 lead, with one game left to play, to serve out for victory. She held firm, taking the match on her third match point with a thumping ace, to the delirious joy of the crowd and her fellow team mates.
The whole Great Britain team, Jo Konta, Heather Watson, Katie Swan, Harriet Dart, together with their coach Anne Keothavong, all of whom had been like a coiled spring courtside, raced onto the court to embrace Boulter in her moment of glory and proceeded to celebrate together with a joyful dance of thoroughly deserved triumph, which was wonderful to behold.
This victory for Great Britain has ended a 26 year wait for Fed Cup promotion and while Britain will no doubt face stiff competition against the world’s elite, at the very least, Britain’s victorious Fed Cup team will finally start next year in the higher echelon. We await news whether this will be in World Group II or in the revamped World Group with a fighting chance to lift the Fed Cup trophy.
Our heartfelt and proud congratulations to you all on your achievement.