BJK Cup holders France knocked out by Russia

·2-min read
Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova celebrates her crucial win (AFP/Michal Cizek)

France's reign as Billie Jean King Cup holders ended on Wednesday when Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova edged Alize Cornet to send the Russians into the semi-finals in Prague.

Pavlyuchenkova beat Cornet 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to secure the decisive point Russia needed to win Group A and send France home.

In the first rubber of the day, France's Clara Burel stunned Ekaterina Alexandrova 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Russia beat Canada 3-0 on Tuesday and Canada had in turn edged France 2-1 on Monday.

This means that even if Russia lose to France 2-1 after the final doubles rubber, they will have won more matches at the rebranded version of the Fed Cup whose last edition France won in 2019.

Pavlyuchenkova and Cornet staged a spirited tug-of-war fighting hard for each ball, with a more patient and precise Pavlyuchenkova distributing the balls and Cornet doing much of the running.

They traded a break apiece in the first set before Pavlyuchenkova slammed a volley into the net to hand Cornet another break and the set.

But Pavlyuchenkova took the second set after earning two breaks and then broke Cornet's serve again in the marathon first game of set three, which proved the crucial moment as she then cruised to the win.

"I'm so happy and so proud of myself because I think it was an incredible match," said Pavlyuchenkova after staging a little dance on the court in celebration.

"It was very good tennis but more importantly I think it was an amazing fighting spirit from both of us, we were like two tigers," she added.

"In the first set I was thinking too much. In the third set, I said to myself I'm going to die on the court but I'm not losing this match."

France started the day on a high as Burel overcame Alexandrova in a nervous rubber with a total of 17 lost serves.

Alexandrova converted four break points to take the first set but then lost momentum early into the second, piling up errors and never quite finding her serve.

The increasingly patient Burel seized on the opportunity and started to control the game, while Alexandrova kept piling up errors.

Burel looked far more hungry for a win but squandered four match points before the desperate Russian ended her own misery with two double faults.

"It is very special, it was my first single match for my country and I'm very happy that I was able to win today," said Burel.

"Even the first set was very close, it was a few points that made the difference, so I stayed tough and I fought a lot."

Russia has yet to wait for its opponent for Friday's semi-finals as the other three groups are still wide open.

The final is on Saturday.

frj/nr

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