Boulter seals GB progress in BJK Cup

Great Britain moved a step closer to the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals after Katie Boulter clinched victory in their play-off tie against Mexico.

With Britain leading 2-1 in the best-of-five tie, 24-year-old Boulter won 6-4 6-1 against Giuliana Olmos.

Anne Keothavong’s team progress to next year’s qualifiers, where another win will put them in the 12-team finals.

“We came in with high expectations and the players delivered,” said Keothavong.

“It is a special feeling at this stage of the competition to get a win. As a team, we haven’t been in this position too many times.

“I’m proud of all of them to get the job done.”

After Britain earned a 2-0 lead on Friday, Heather Watson had the chance to secure victory at the first time of asking earlier on Saturday.

The British number two lost 6-3 7-6 (7-1) against Mexico’s Marcela Zacarias, leaving Boulter with the task of beating Olmos to avoid the tie going to the deciding doubles rubber.

Like she did against Zacarias on Friday, Boulter grew stronger as the match wore on and eventually ran out a comfortable winner.

The Billie Jean King Cup is the new name for the Fed Cup, the women’s international team event that Britain has finished runners-up in four times but has never won.

Boulter shines as Britain progress without Konta

Katie Boulter won 80% of her first-serve points and hit 14 winners in a dominant performance

Even though world number 18 Johanna Konta was missing as she rested a knee injury, Britain were still expected to progress comfortably against a Mexican team without a singles player ranked inside the world’s top 200.

Watson was the highest ranked and most experienced player in the British side, with former world number 82 Boulter providing additional quality and pedigree.

Both players won their reverse singles matches against Olmos and Zacarias in straight sets on Friday, but Watson struggled “to get going” on Saturday, describing her performance as a “bad day at the office”.

Landing only 48% of first serves and making 21 unforced errors highlighted the world number 68’s struggles.

In contrast, Boulter played confidently and powerfully as she had too much quality for 434th-ranked Olmos.

Now ranked 291st in the world, she is still working her way back up the rankings after seeing her career derailed by a back injury, which was aggravated playing for Britain in this competition two years ago.

Boulter once again demonstrated her reputation as a player for the big occasion, overwhelming doubles specialist Olmos with her strong serving and clean, confident hitting.

Boulter broke for 4-3 in the first set and served out after the Mexican rallied to save three set points in the previous game.

Looking to maintain that momentum at the start of the second set, Boulter walloped a brilliant backhand winner to tee up three break points and took the first before cantering to victory.

Keothavong said the victory should allow her team “to take a lot of belief” into next year’s qualifier, which will see them play one of the world’s leading nations.

In Konta’s absence, the British team was completed by Harriet Dart, Katie Swan and Jodie Burrage – who are all aged 24 or under and ranked inside the world’s top 250.

“We’ve got five players in this team and got one of them in the top 100, but the other four all have the ability and potential to crack the top 100,” added Keothavong.

“As a team I feel like we’ve worked hard to get things together and I’d love for us to be one of the top 12 teams in the world next year.

“If we get things right then anything is possible.”

Svitolina seals Ukraine’s progress

Elsewhere, world number five Elina Svitolina clinched victory for Ukraine with a hard-fought 6-2 4-6 7-6 (7-3) win against Japan’s Yuki Naito.

Svitolina fought back from break down four times in the deciding set before dominating the tie-break to put her nation into a 3-0 lead.

Canada also progressed when 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez took her sixth match point – which came after a brief delay because of floodlight failure – to complete a 3-6 6-3 6-4 win against Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic.

Latvia, Poland, Italy and the Netherlands will join them in the qualifiers after winning their respective play-off ties.

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