Tennis

Billie Jean King Cup Finals: Katie Boulter loses Great Britain’s opener against Kazakhstan

Katie Boulter lost for the second time in her nine singles matches in the competition.

Katie Boulter was unable to rise to the occasion as she has so many times in the past as Great Britain fell behind 1-0 in their first Billie Jean King Cup Final group tie against Kazakhstan.

British number three Boulter started well but her opponent Yulia Putintseva fought back to win 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Harriet Dart, Britain’s leading player in Emma Raducanu’s absence, next plays Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.

Hosts Great Britain will lose the best-of-three tie in Glasgow if Dart is beaten.

If world number 98 Dart beats the 22nd-ranked Grand Slam winner, then the tie will be broken in the doubles match.

Doubles specialists Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett have been chosen by British captain Anne Keothavong and are set to make their debut at the event. The doubles match is still played even if the tie has been settled, as the result may still influence the final group standings.

The Finals feature 12 teams divided into four groups, with the winners of the round-robin stage advancing to the semi-finals.

Britain’s arduous task becomes even more difficult

Great Britain did not qualify for the final after losing to the Czech Republic in April, instead receiving a place as host nation when Glasgow was awarded the event.

Keothavong’s side are ranked below their Group C rivals Spain and Kazakhstan, leaving them with an uphill task made even more difficult by the absence of star player Raducanu.

The 2021 US Open champion was ruled out with a wrist injury, but the hosts were hoping Boulter, who had won seven of her previous eight singles matches at the event, would help fill the void.

Boulter is a player who thrives on big occasions, illustrated this year by her win over former world number one Karolina Pliskova at Wimbledon, as well as her impressive record while representing Great Britain.

That seemed to be a familiar plot as she began confidently against Putintseva.

But the 26-year-old faded in the second set and also needed treatment for what she described as a “tight” calf in the decider, when the Kazakh fought back to the delight of her nation’s noisy traveling band of fans.

An aggressive start from Boulter, who broke twice for 2-1 without the Kazakh winning a point on serve, proved key in the first set.

The second set turned in Putintseva’s favor as she showed resiliency and quality to win two long points en route to the break for a 4-2 lead.

After serving to equalise, the World No.51 kept the momentum going and broke twice for 4-0 in the deciding set before confidently closing out a vital victory.

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