Switzerland proved there is life after Roger Federer as their women defeated Australia in Glasgow to win the Billie Jean King Cup for the first time.
Two months after Federer’s tearful farewell to tennis at the Laver Cup in London, Belinda Bencic and Jil Teichmann claimed singles victories at the Emirates Arena to break new ground for their country.
Switzerland had twice reached the final before, in Martina Hingis’ pomp in 1998 and last year, when they finished as runners-up to the now banned Russian Tennis Federation.
Sweet Swiss redemption 🇨🇭🏆
— Billie Jean King Cup (@BJKCup) November 13, 2022
But they have been unstoppable in Glasgow, not losing a live rubber despite a difficult draw, and Australia were powerless to prevent yet another final defeat – they have lost 10 in a row dating back to their last of seven titles back in 1974.
Veteran captain Heinz Gunthardt, his nails painted red along with his team, said: “We have been working for this a long time. Not just this week.
“We used to call it the Fed Express, trying to get to the end station, which is the title. You always stopped at the semi-final location or before unfortunately, or last year in the finals.
“That one more was very difficult to come by, and when things are really difficult and you finally conquer it, it’s super sweet.”
Get the nail varnish ready? 💅
— Billie Jean King Cup (@BJKCup) November 11, 2022
This was a rematch of last year’s semi-final, where Australia won only eight games, and they at least made it more competitive this time in front of a sizeable and enthusiastic crowd that included King, who came on to the court before the tie and high-fived all the players.
Storm Sanders again played well above her singles ranking of 237 but lost out to Teichmann in a 6-3 4-6 6-3 tussle lasting two hours and 18 minutes.
Sanders had been unbeaten in singles this week and led Australia to victory over Great Britain in the semi-finals on Saturday, seeing off Heather Watson before teaming up with Sam Stosur for the narrowest of wins against Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls in the deciding doubles.
She is ranked more than 200 places below fellow left-hander Teichmann but refused to let her opponent pull away, despite further treatment to her right leg, fighting back from a set and a break down before running out of steam in the decider.
Twelfth-ranked Bencic, meanwhile, has once again produced her best form in the red and white of her home country, having won singles gold and doubles silver at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.
The 25-year-old went into her clash against Ajla Tomljanovic, who lost to Harriet Dart on Saturday, with a perfect record and was far too strong for her opponent in a 6-2 6-1 victory.
Bencic said with a smile: “Probably I should just become a team player now and never play for myself again.
“I feel like I’m not playing for myself out there. I’m fighting for all the team and for all Switzerland, for our country. This was like a childhood dream coming true. Hearing the national anthem and watching the Swiss flag, it’s really something big for me.
“I just feel like it brings out the best, brings out those extra percentages which maybe I cannot bring in the other tournaments. This was a huge goal of ours, especially after last year. The line between the heartbreak and the victory, it’s so small, and the difference is so huge in emotion.”
Switzerland are the 12th different country to win the tournament formerly known as Fed Cup and the first new champions since Italy in 2006.