U.S. defends junior Billie Jean King Cup title with win over Czech Republic
For the eighth time overall, and second year in a row, the United States is the junior Billie Jean King Cup champion. The Americans clinched the title Sunday in Cordoba, Spain, with a 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic.
The U.S. has now won five titles in the last six years (having not sent a team to the 2021 competition in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic), but its run in Cordoba was particularly impressive for its dominance.
In six ties, the second-seeded Americans—a team consisting of junior world No. 14 Iva Jovic, No. 21 Tyra Grant and No. 49 Alanis Hamilton—didn't even lose a set: They defeated Serbia, Algeria and Sweden in round-robin play, and then blanked Brazil and Spain in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.
“I couldn’t ask for much more out of the girls," U.S. captain Tom Gutteridge told the ITF website after Sunday's final. "Every day they’ve been so professional, so diligent. They didn’t underestimate any opponents. They took everyone for their best. They came with a job to do and I was proud of them for the way they competed.”
Gutteridge also admitted that the team was motivated by a measure of revenge, as the Czech Republic knocked the U.S. women out of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Seville 48 hours earlier. Outgoing U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi, who led her last professional Billie Jean King Cup team in Seville, was on hand in Cordoba to support the junior team in their final triumph.
Jovic, who was on last year's squad but did not play in the semifinal or final 12 months ago, added that she embraced the pressure of being the team's top player.
"This year I felt more powerful, like I was making a bigger contribution,” she said. “I ended up playing for the win, and it was a really nice feeling to take the title home with that match.”
Against the Czechs, Grant defeated Alena Kovackova 6-4, 6-1 in Sunday’s first match, before Jovic clinched the win with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Laura Samsonova. In 12 sets played in her singles matched for the week, the soon-to-be 16-year-old Jovic lost just 26 games.
“The future is in good hands with these girls,” Gutteridge said. “We’re trying to create a culture, an environment where they’re all pushing each other. They’re doing a great job raising the bar and constantly motivating each other. They’re all great friends, so I think it’s in good hands.”