Thursday, October 6, 2022

Ukraine comeback falls short as US win Billie Jean King Cup qualifier

Ukraine comeback falls short as US win Billie Jean King Cup qualifier
April 17, 2022 Web Desk

ASHEVILLE (Reuters) - A gallant comeback by Ukraine ultimately ended in disappointment for the team representing the war-torn nation as the United States won the deciding doubles rubber at a Billie Jean King Cup qualifier.

A day that started with an American victory seemingly a fait accompli after the hosts had taken a 2-0 lead on Friday turned into a tense afternoon in North Carolina when both singles matches were won by the underdogs.

Buoyed by an enthusiastic section of Ukrainian fans who turned the tie almost into a home game at times at the indoor arena in Asheville, Dayana Yastremska and Katarina Zavatska won their respective matches 6-3 6-4 over higher-ranked opponents.

After world 93 Yastremska beat 14th-ranked Jessica Pegula to keep the tie alive, an inspired 201st-ranked Zavatska toppled Shelby Rogers in another upset.

"It's amazing. I felt all the stadium was more with me, even though we are in the USA," said Zavatska.

"I was in the zone completely. Today I was really into it so much, every point, fighting like crazy. I just had all the energy from the crowd supporting me.

"It's super nice being in a safe place here."

But Zavatska could only watch helplessly as Yastremska and Lyudmyla Kichenok fell to Pegula and Asia Muhammad 7-6(5) 6-3 in the doubles decider.

A double-fault by Kichenok that decided the first set tiebreak proved pivotal.

The United States breezed through the second set and advanced to the finals in November.

"That was a really tough match, especially the first set, we were having some crazy points and lot of ups and downs," said Pegula.

Added US captain Rinaldi: "Congratulations to Ukraine, but (my players) brought it in the doubles and closed it out."