Underdogs Great Britain dazzle Spain and reach Billie Jean King Cup semi-final


And yet the job was not finished. Doubles specialists Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett had only made their debut for their country on Tuesday. Now they found themselves carrying the weight of this elimination match in front of a highly invested audience, which was beating and honking for all they were worth.

It was a nerve-wracking conclusion, especially since the doubles in the Billie Jean King Cup is different. You play a deciding point at deuce, and a super tie-break instead of a third set, giving the whole experience a sudden death vibe.

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Nicholls and Barnett are 28 and 29 respectively and had never played a match of anything like this resonance before. Victory would give Britain its first semi-final since 1981, when the team had some big winners in Virginia Wade and Sue Barker, as well as a future No. 5 in the world in Jo Durie.

Their opponents – Aliona Bolsova and Rebeka Masarova – were no mugs, having recently won a second-class event in Spain. And when the action started, the tension quickly mounted.

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The margins were so tight that five of the first eight games were the deciding point. Each salvo could potentially determine which country would be knocked out. On the field, Watson bounced up and down in ecstasy after each successful rally. “I wear this to measure my activity,” she said, pointing to her exercise watch, “and my stress and calories burned were more supportive, doubling than my exercise earlier in the day.”

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