Great Britain turn focus to building on impressive Billie Jean King Cup showing

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Great Britain were still digesting their Billie Jean King Cup near miss as thoughts turned to next year and building on a hugely positive week in Glasgow.

Britain were four points away from defeating Australia and booking their place in Sunday’s final at the Emirates Arena but doubles duo Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls were pipped by Storm Sanders and Sam Stosur.

As well as a final against Switzerland, Australia’s prize was also a free passage through to next year’s finals, while Britain were handed a home qualifier against France in April.

Having stepped in late as hosts of the event and seen the country outperform expectations by making the last four, there is interest from the Lawn Tennis Association in reprising the role in 12 months’ time.

First the governing body must assess the financial picture from this year but costs were reduced by staging the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup in the same venue and attendances were not disastrous.

Finding associations willing to host the finals has proved a major headache for the International Tennis Federation so far and there is again the unsatisfactory situation of the draw for the qualifiers having been made before the home nation – who are awarded a wild card – is known.

Britain lost their qualifier to the Czech Republic this year only to later be reinstated in the competition.

The standout performers were Harriet Dart, who defeated two much higher ranked players in Paula Badosa and Ajla Tomljanovic, and previously unheralded doubles pair Barnett and Nicholls.

Dart has had the best season of her career, breaking into the top 100 and beating eight top-50 players.

Currently ranked 98, the 26-year-old said: “For sure this has definitely given me a lot of confidence going into next year. To be able to play great and then do it again also shows me that it’s not by chance. It’s the continued work. Keep plugging away and good things can happen.

Harriet Dart celebrates victory over Ajla Tomljanovic
Harriet Dart defeated Paula Badosa and Ajla Tomljanovic (Jane Barlow/PA)

Keothavong sees no reason why Dart cannot significantly improve her ranking in 2023, saying: “She’s capable of playing some fantastic tennis. She’s had her fair share of big wins. But I guess for her it’s about producing it on a week in, week out basis.

“Harriet has been a great example to everyone this week. I do think sometimes she doesn’t get the credit she deserves but, gosh, she is such a tough competitor.”

Keothavong will hope she can call on a fit Emma Raducanu in April while Barnett and Nicholls have shown this week that Britain now have a women’s doubles team who absolutely merit their place in the team.

The university graduates brought quality and infectious enthusiasm and, having climbed from outside the top 300 to the verge of the top 50 in 2022, have set their sights on a place at the WTA Finals next year.

Nicholls said: “I think we have proven that our level is there and, once we have the opportunity to play those high level tournaments week in and week out, I don’t see why we can’t have an excellent year next year.”

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