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Top five photos from the Billie Jean King Cup

This time last week British tennis fans were glued to their screens as Anne Keothavong's team defeated Mexico in the Billie Jean King Cup - securing their place in the qualifiers for the 2022 finals.

Getty photographer Naomi Baker was on the ground at the National Tennis Centre capturing all the best moments from Great Britain's victory. Here she has selected her five stand out photos and why they were her pick from an emphatic week for the Brits.

1 - Behind the scenes

I love to show behind the scenes, especially in the times we are in and in this case I was the only photographer so I tried to find different angles or something to photograph through to give a different perspective to the viewers.

2 - Make some noise for the Brits

It’s such a great team event and when the British team brought the tambourines out it really highlighted that for me, not something you see on the team bench at a normal tennis event!

3 - Captain Fantastic

Ensuring the team and all involved were covid-safe of course means that the coaches are so often behind their masks (unless playing themselves) so I was so glad when it came to the last day of training and Great Britain's captain Anne Keothavong was involved on court; it was nice to see the team having so much fun and being able to capture the emotions.

4 - Heather Watson serving for the Brits

I wanted to use the flags on the team bench in my backgrounds to represent the event, its Team GB! I always love these images when players are about to serve, so once I found the right angle I was happy to be able to capture this and show Heather as part of the British team.

5 - Katie Boulter's celebration

This image I captured on day one of Katie Boulter and I loved seeing the passion for their country and how much it meant to the whole team to win.

 

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Billie Jean King Cup 2021: Great Britain vs Mexico - the tale of the tie

Great Britain sealed their place in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals qualifier this weekend with a 3-1 over Mexico at the National Tennis Centre.

From Heather Watson’s first-day gliding winners, to the ferocious hitting from Katie Boulter on day two – we round-up the moments that defined a fantastic win for the British side.

Boulter seals a tight opening set with a break against Zacarias

There were plenty of fireworks in the tie’s first match between Boulter and Marcela Zacarias. Momentum shifted from end to end, with four breaks of serve in the opening eight games. Both players were battling hard to take charge of the match and with the score tightly poised at 5-5; Boulter landed a crucial hold to force the Mexican to serve to stay in it.

Growing in confidence, the Brit started to work through the gears. A fortunate net cord to begin the twelfth game was followed up by three unanswered points from Boulter, who showed sheer power and class to take the first set.

This pivotal moment set the wheels in motion for what would turn into a straight sets win for Boulter – winning the final eight games in a row.

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Watson’s vital first set break against Olmos

Watson raced off to a flying start in her match against doubles specialist, Giuliana Olmos. But despite an early break, Olmos struck back immediately and out of nowhere Watson found herself in a fight.

Watson’s aggressive style was getting the best of her opponent but the Mexican did just enough to stay in the set and get to 5-5. A big hold from Watson and up steps Olmos to try and force the tie-break – but the British No.2 had other ideas.

The loud cheers from the Mexican side-line were silenced as Watson put on a masterclass in mental toughness to clinch the all-important break. The Brit’s powerful groundstrokes had been a clear advantage throughout the match and with the game at deuce, she stepped up once again. She sealed a one set lead with a driving crosscourt winner, which would become a defining moment in the contest.

World-class winners from Watson on route to victory

After capturing the first set at the death, Watson found new confidence and demonstrated exactly why she’s second in all-time match wins for Great Britain in the Billie Jean King Cup.

The Brit came close to breaking in the second game of the set, but wasn’t going to let her opportunities lie the next time of asking.

Serving at 2-1 down, Olmos played a sneaky drop shot in an attempt to catch Watson off guard. But she read it like a book and quick as a flash she was up and showed unbelievable touch to guide the sliced forehand for a crosscourt winner.

The shot was met by a huge roar from the British bench and it felt like the moment Watson won the match psychologically.

Zacarias spoils the party for British whitewash win

Moving into day two and Great Britain knew they only needed one victory to secure their place in next year’s finals qualifiers. First match – Watson vs Zacarias.

Any ideas of an easy British win were soon squashed as Zacarias raced to a one set lead and had Watson on the ropes. The Brit looked slightly nervy and saw a number of errors creep into her game, but a second set break gave her the opportunity to serve out the set at 5-4.

In the biggest moment of the match, the Mexican continued the high level of consistency she had shown throughout, asking questions of Watson time and time again, forcing her to play the extra ball. It proved frustrating for Watson who couldn’t find the breakthrough despite everything she threw at her opponent.

A couple of forced errors from the Brit and the match was back on level terms – a decisive game for Zacarias who would go on to clinch the second set tie-break 7-1.

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Boulter reaches top gear in defining match

Both players came out strong in the fourth singles match, with heavy hitting from the off from Boulter and Olmos.

Renowned for having one of the best forehands in the game, Boulter was really letting rip on every groundstroke, forcing Olmos to have to dig deep, just to stay in contention. After clinching the first break, the Brit suffered a minor blip with the Mexican coming back immediately to level the score.

It would have been easy for Boulter to panic, but in the defining moment of the match, she took her game to another level. She dispatched winner after winner on Olmos’ serve and went on to take the game and the first set.

From there she never looked back and cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 win.

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Update: 2021 LTA Advantage Wimbledon Ballot

Today The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced an update on their plans for The Championships 2021.

The AELTC have said that, given the current guidance from the UK Government and public health authorities, the most likely outcome is a reduced capacity tournament, and they are doing all they can to remain as flexible as possible in their ticket distribution for this year’s Championships. This will allow them to react to a potential increase or decrease in ticket capacity ahead of and during the Wimbledon fortnight.

For the same reasons and because we are unsure of the ultimate spectator capacity of The Championships and therefore the number of tickets that will be available to the LTA and whether the event capacity will vary closer to the event, we have decided not to hold an LTA Advantage Wimbledon Ballot this year.  

However, we continue to work closely with the AELTC to ensure an allocation of tickets will be available to eligible LTA Advantage Members. We anticipate these tickets will be made available online in June and we will be in touch with more information as soon as we are able to. Our approach is to retain maximum flexibility in order to react quickly to any change in circumstances. 

We are also continuing to work on plans for our own LTA events this summer and will ensure Advantage members are kept informed of ticket details for these as soon as they become available.

We thank you for your continued understanding and patience, in a year that presents unique and challenging circumstances for the staging of sporting events.

For the full update on the 2021 Wimbledon Championships, please visit the All England Lawn Tenis Club's website.

Australian Open 2021: Preview

The five words that get every tennis fan’s heart racing – Grand Slam tennis is back.

The tournament has already seen a number of firsts in 2021 – the first February start, the first qualifiers held in another country, and the first Melbourne Summer Series warm-up events – and it hasn’t even started yet.

Here’s a preview of what you can expect at the Australian Open 2021.

Men’s singles

When you think of the Australian Open and its iconic Rod Laver Arena, only one man springs to mind – Novak Djokovic. The World No.1 is a record eight-time champion in Melbourne and has shown no sign in slowing down in recent years. Last year he beat Austrian star Dominic Thiem in an epic five-set final to lift the title and is the obvious tournament favourite.

Eager to go one further in 2021, World No.3 Thiem is tipped by many as the main man to prevent the Serbian from winning his third title in a row. The 2020 US Open champion is playing some of the best tennis on tour right now and his powerful, attacking style of play has proven to be formidable.

Hot on their heels is 20-time Grand Slam champion and number two seed Rafael Nadal. Despite suffering from a minor back issue, the Spaniard will be raring to win his first title at the Australian Open since 2009. 

Nitto ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev is another strong contender in the men’s draw and comes into the competition as the number four seed. However, on his side of the draw is fellow Russian star Andrey Rublev, who made a big name for himself as one of the stand out players of 2020 and will be an underdog to go far this year.

Women’s singles

Defending champion Sofia Kenin made a name for herself at last year’s event after beating Garbiñe Muguruza in the final. Kenin went on to be named WTA Player of the Year after also reaching the final at Roland Garros, where she lost to Iga Świątek.

The biggest question mark over the women’s draw surrounds the return of home favourite Ashleigh Barty, who will play her first Grand Slam for 11 months. The current World No.1 will face Danka Kovinic in the opening round as she looks to reignite her brilliant form from 2019.

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams are two of the most talked about names in tennis but come into the event in strong veins of form. Osaka picked up her second US Open title back in September and so far this year has looked impressive, including a recent comeback win against Britain’s Katie Boulter. Williams on the other hand has played well in her warm-up matches but is struggling with a shoulder injury which forced her to pull out of her Yarra Valley Classic semi-final clash with Barty.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Bianca Andreescu makes a long anticipated return to the tour and World No.2 Simona Halep is out to be crowned Australian Open champion for the first time.

The Brits

Singles

The headline clash of the first round for British tennis fans is of course, number 30 seed Dan Evans up against Cam Norrie. The two have been regular practice partners out in Melbourne but must now face each other to stay in the competition. In their most recent clash at the Battle of the Brits Premier League of Tennis in December, Norrie came out on top, but at a Grand Slam anything can happen.

British No.1 Johanna Konta - who reached the semi-finals in Melbourne in 2016will face Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif in her opening tie. If Konta were to win she would face another qualifier in the second round before a potential match up with World No.24 Jenifer Brady in the third round.

Heather Watson faces a tough opening clash against Kristyna Pliskova, but will take confidence from the fact that she beat the Czech star in Melbourne only a year ago.

Boulter has been in brilliant form over the past week and is up against Daria Kasatkina in round one – the winner of which could face seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka in the next round.

Playing in her first Grand Slam and WTA Tour event, fans will be excited to see 20-year-old Fran Jones in action at the Australian Open this year. Jones faces World No.60 Shelby Rogers in her first match.

Doubles

Britiain's male doubles stars feature prominently in the Australian Open line-up for 2021 – none more so than reigning champion Joe Salisbury and his partner Rajeev Ram. After a fantastic 2020 campaign that saw the pair reach No.2 in the world, Salisbury and Ram are one of the favourites going into this year’s event.

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares - who triumphed in Australia in 2016 - will once again reunite for this season. The duo last played together back in 2019, before Murray paired up with fellow Brit Neal Skupski. With Murray and Soares back together, they’ll feel confident that they can have a good run in the tournament.

Speaking of reunions, Neal and Ken Skupski are back together again, as the brothers from Liverpool aim for a strong performance in Melbourne.

Dom Inglot and Luke Bambridge will join together for this year’s opening Grand Slam, while Jonny O’Mara teams up with New Zealand's Artem Sitak 

Singles stars Norrie and Evans will also compete in the doubles - Norrie pairs up with Marcos Giron, while Evans will play with Moldovan, Radu Albot.

Wheelchair

Alfie Hewett, Gordon Reid, Andy Lapthorne and Lucy Shuker fly the flag in the Australian Open men’s, women’s and quad wheelchair events this year.

Having won his first career Grand Slam singles title in Australia in 2016, Reid also lifted the men’s doubles title for the first time in 2017 before partnering with Hewett. The British pair claimed their first Australian Open title together last year.

Hewett makes his fifth Australian Open appearance, having won his first singles match at Melbourne Park last year to reach the men’s singles semis.

Of the British quartet, Lapthorne has won the most titles in Melbourne, having lifted a total of five quad doubles titles, the first of those titles coming on his Australian Open debut back in 2011.

Shuker is also a former two-time Australian Open women’s doubles finalist, partnering Australia’s Dainela di Toro in 2010 and Dutch star Marjolein Buis in 2013. She has progressed to the singles semi-finals twice before.

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