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The Billie Jean King Cup turns into a fiasco for defending champion France. Les Bleues were eliminated in the group stage after a loss on Monday against Canada and an insufficient performance on Wednesday against Russia.
Barely arrived, already eliminated. France, defending champion of the women’s team tournament, was eliminated on Wednesday 3 November from the group stages of the Billie Jean King Cup – the new name of the Fed Cup tournament – after Alizé Cornet’s defeat against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (5-7, 6-4, 6-2).
Badly embarked after their inaugural 2-1 defeat against Canada, the Bleues of Julien Benneteau had to win 3-0 against Russia to hope to validate their ticket in the last four and continue to defend their title. A failed bet after the defeat of Alizé Cornet.
On Wednesday morning, Clara Burel had yet taken the first step towards the feat by overcoming the Russian 32e World Cup Ekaterina Alexandrova 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
The equalizer gleaned by the Russian, finalist at Roland Garros, ensures her country to finish in first place in group A, even if France wins the final doubles match today.
Cornet has cracked
“I’m so happy and so proud of myself because I think it was an incredible game,” relished the world No. 12, rewarding herself with a little dance step.
The Russian joy was opposed by the closed face of Alizé Cornet, who finally cracked when she had won the first set 7-5. Despite her sense of self-sacrifice, the Frenchwoman did not manage to contain Pavlyuchenkova’s rise to power, despite a disputed second round but ultimately won by the Russian. “We both showed incredible fighting spirit, we were like two tigers”, also greeted Pavlyuchenkova.
Cornet then only postponed the deadline in the last set, finally winning 6-2 in 43 minutes by his opponent of the day.
However, the French hopes had been maintained by the good performance of Clara Burel against the Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, for her first start in singles. Facing the 32e world, the 20-year-old Frenchwoman managed to reverse the trend after being led. She also showed patience in the last game to finally win after a double fault from the Russian.
“At the end, there was a little tension,” admitted after the meeting the Rennaise, yet serene. “I had to be solid, I knew she wanted to play in the two-three strike rally so I had to give her one more stroke. It made a difference.”
France, crowned in 2019 by beating to the almost general surprise Australia in front of its home crowd in Perth, was the last nation to win the Fed Cup. After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the women’s tournament has just returned under a new name – the Billie Jean King Cup – and a new format: the top twelve world nations have qualified for a tournament taking place over one week.