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2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals: U.S. beats Swiss, winner-take-all vs. Czech Republic

Victoria Chiesa | November 09, 2023

The U.S. Billie Jean King Cup team toppled defending champions Switzerland 3-0 on Thursday in Seville, Spain, and with it, set a heavy-hitting, win-and-in match against the Czech Republic on Friday where the winner will punch their ticket to the semifinals of the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals. 


Danielle Collins and Sofia Kenin won a pair of contrasting singles matches that gave captain Kathy Rinaldi's team victory in the Group A match, with Collins' 7-6(4), 6-1 win over 18-year-old Celine Naef eliminating the Swiss from semifinal contention. Despite that, the tie was a point away from being knotted at 1-1: World No. 84 Viktorija Golubic, playing as the Swiss No. 1 with world No. 14 Belinda Bencic pregnant with her first child, gave Sofia Kenin, who at No. 33 is the highest-ranked player for the U.S. at these Finals after a resurgent 2023, all she could handle in a nearly three-hour second singles match.


Trailing 6-3, 5-2, Golubic came alive, and saved two match points before in the second set, and had one of her own in the ensuing third, before Kenin, who eventually finished a rollercoaster 6-3, 6-7(1), 7-5 win in 2 hours and 54 minutes. 

As Kenin's game fluctuated—she hit 45 winners, more than double that of Golubic, to 67 unforced errors—she said the key to steadied herself was staying even-keeled mentally in the face of the Swiss' steely defenses.


"I try do my best by keeping a poker face," 2020 Australian Open champion Kenin said afterwards. "At times I definitely wanted to break my racquet, but obviously would never do that.


"She played some unbelievable tennis. There is nothing much I could have done. I really gave it all. ... Just had to regroup myself, because of course I had match points and you can tend to go down on yourself, so I managed to pick myself back up. Kathy helped me. Everyone, Team USA helped me and I couldn't have done it without them."

Rinaldi, meanwhile, praised Kenin's individual fighting qualities. 


"It was just incredible tennis from both players. Credit to Golubic. Just really fun to watch, but even more fun to have won that," she said with a smile. "Sonya ... I think she's just a true fighter."


Sloane Stephens and Taylor Townsend put a bow on a U.S. sweep with a 6-1, 7-6(3) win over Jil Teichmann and Simona Walert in the doubles match.


Circled on the calendar since the draw was made, Friday's tilt will see the two most decorated teams in competition history square off: The U.S. boasts a record 18 titles; the Czechs, 11 (six as an independent nation). Twelve months ago at this competition, the U.S. and Czechs met in similar fashion, with the winner of their round-robin tie assured of reaching the semifinals, and the Czechs took a 2-1 victory on the strength of wins for Katerina Siniakova (over Collins) and Marketa Vondrousova (over Coco Gauff). 


Vondrousova, now a Wimbledon champion, and Siniakova are both on the Czech team again, as is Top 10 player and 2021 Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova. And the decorated squad is rounded out by Marie Bouzkova and Linda Noskova, both Top 50 players who did the heavy lifting in the Czechs' own 3-0 win over Switzerland. 


While Rinaldi acknowledged the U.S. is an underdog on paper, the key to reaching the next stage of the Finals might lie in the intangibles.


"I believe in my team. I believe in each and every one of them," she said. "Obviously they've got a lot of experience, either a Grand Slam winner [Kenin, Stephens] or a Grand Slam finalist [Collins, Townsend in doubles]. Then Peyton [Stearns] also is just having such a great year and coming in with a lot of confidence.


"Obviously Czech on paper is favored, but you know what? We're going to go out there and fight just like we did today. I've got a group of fighters. I feel pretty good. Hopefully we get some rest and come out swinging again."

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