Sports

Emerging Teen Powers Australia Past Mexico into BJK Cup Finals

Australia surged into the Billie Jean King Cup finals Saturday with a 4-0 victory over Mexico, handing Grand Slam champion Samantha Stosur a winning start to her reign as captain.

The seven-time champions took a commanding 2-0 lead into day two at Brisbane’s Pat Rafter Arena, allowing Stosur to rest Arina Rodionova and hand a debut to 18-year-old Taylah Preston.

She seized the opportunity with both hands, sweeping past the experienced Marcela Zacarias, 12 years her senior, 6-1, 6-1 to put the tie beyond Mexico’s reach.

Daria Saville and Ellen Perez rubbed salt in the wounds by beating Mexican duo Jessica Hinojosa Gomez and Maria Fernanda Navarro 6-3, 6-1 in the dead rubber doubles.

“I’m just trying not to cry at the moment, to be honest,” said Preston.

“It’s a very, very amazing feeling and so grateful for the opportunity from Sam and the rest of the team to be able to play and close out the tie.”

Zacarias was bidding to bank her 22nd Billie Jean King Cup match win and claim sole ownership of the record by a Mexican player.

But she was no match for the emerging teenager, who made her WTA Tour main-draw debut at the 2022 Rosmalen Grass Court Championships as a qualifier before an injury derailed her progress.

An aggressive Preston powered through the first set in 37 minutes and kept the momentum going with a break for 2-1 in the second set.

Zacarias rolled her ankle midway through the first set and there was no way back as she struggled with the injury, in tears after being beaten.

Stosur, who was pivotal as a player to Australia reaching the tournament decider in 2019 and 2022, said she always had faith in Preston.

“What a performance today, incredible for a debut,” she said. “Obviously very happy to get the win here.

“I just said to Tay, ‘we’re all behind you, we all believe in you, enjoy the moment and play the way we know you can play’.”

While Australia booked their place at November’s finals in Seville, Mexico must now contest the play-offs in the same month.

AFP

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