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Thursday January 20th, 2022 9:28PM

Kasatkina gives Russia 1-0 lead in BJK Cup final

By The Associated Press
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PRAGUE (AP) — Daria Kasatkina gave Russia a 1-0 lead over Switzerland in the final of the Billie Jean King Cup on Saturday with a 6-2, 6-4 victory against Jil Teichmann.

The Russians are just one win away from their fifth title in the competition formerly known as the Fed Cup. Switzerland has yet to win the trophy.

Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova will face Tokyo Olympics singles champion Belinda Bencic in the second singles match, ahead of the doubles.

In a dominant display, Kasatkina blasted a forehand winner to earn a break point in the seventh game of the second set that she converted for a 4-3 lead. She was not able to hold her serve in the following game but got another break for 5-4 before serving the match out on her first match point.

The Russian stormed the opening set, breaking Teichmann three times and dropping her serve once.

“I think the beginning was very important, we were both nervous but I managed little bit better the nerves,” Kasatkina said.

It was the second victory for the Russian in the tournament after beating Canada’s Carol Zhao in the group stage to improve her record in the competition to 5-1 while Teichmann recorded her first loss after three wins.

“An amazing feeling," Kasatkina said. "I won the first match (in the group stage), now I play in the final and I'm happy I've brought this very important point to my team.”

Russia reached its first final since 2015 in the competition they won in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

The Swiss reached their first final since finishing runner-up in 1998, their only final appearance

The 12 teams in the finals were divided into four groups of three teams. Only the group winners advanced to Friday’s semifinals.

Russia dominated Group A in the tournament after victories over defending champion France and Canada before eliminating the United States in the semifinal.

The U.S. is the most successful nation in the competition with 18 trophies.

Switzerland advanced to the semis from Group D, considered the toughest in the tournament, defeating both the Czech Republic and Germany on the way.

In the semis, the Swiss swept Australia 2-0, winning both singles matches.

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