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Billie Jean King Cup: Late replacement Harriet Dart wins to give GB play-off victory

Late replacement Harriet Dart beat Caijsa Hennemann to seal a 3-1 win for Great Britain against Sweden in their Billie Jean King Cup play-off.

Dart - picked instead of Jodie Burrage, whose debut was ruined by nerves on Saturday - thrived on the added pressure to win 7-5 6-2 in London.

Captain Anne Keothavong said she had "no hesitation" in calling up Dart, who "was able to rise to the challenge".

Earlier, Katie Boulter had put GB, the overwhelming favourites, 2-1 up.

The British number one was a 6-1 7-6 (7-5) winner against Kajsa Rinaldo Persson, who had stunned Burrage the previous day.

There were scenes of jubilation at the Copper Box Arena as Hennemann fired wide on match point for Dart to give Great Britain a victory which seals their place in the qualifying round for the 2024 Finals.

London-born Dart said it was "extra special" to win the tie on home soil.

Meanwhile, Sweden, who were vying for promotion from the European/African zone will remain in the lower tier of the women's team event.

Dart delivers after Burrage's nerves

Having watched the first set of Boulter's win, Dart knew she could be the one to seal the deal for Great Britain.

She was brought in for Burrage, who fell short on Saturday when she let slip a 4-0 lead and lost 11 out of the next 12 games in a defeat by Rinaldo Persson in the opening singles match of a tie that Great Britain - with much higher ranked players - had been expected to win comfortably.

"Jodie played yesterday and it's hard not to feel for her, but it happens. It's happened to all of us where the occasion gets the better of you," Keothavong told a news conference.

"For me, I feel like I'm a little bit spoiled because we've got choices on this team and I had no hesitation in calling up Harriet to play today knowing how she has been able to perform in this situation."

Dart claimed the first break to go 4-3 up, but the Copper Box fell silent as Hennemann broke back immediately, stopping the British number three from serving out for the opening set.

However, the 22-year-old Swede could not find an answer when Dart replied with a break before holding serve to go a set up.

With a noisy crowd behind her, Dart was the first to draw blood in the second set and she sped through her service games until she got the double break at 4-2.

Dart, who has now played nine matches in the Billie Jean King Cup, showed her experience to secure the win with the first of her three match points.

Keothavong added that she would help Burrage to bounce back from her debut defeat.

"It's going to take time. I don't think you get over a performance like that quickly," Keothavong said.

"For me as captain to show that kind of empathy - I've been there, I can relate to that and help her on her journey if she's to be part of this team again."

'It was very difficult for me'

Having watched from the sidelines when Rinaldo Persson beat Burrage the previous day, Boulter knew she would face a more difficult match than their difference in rankings suggested.

"She's definitely tricky. She has some weapons which, especially on these courts, they really seem to help her," Boulter told a news conference.

"She keeps fighting, she raised her level clearly above her ranking again today and she made it very difficult for me."

Despite missing two break points in Rinaldo Persson's first service game, Boulter broke at the second opportunity for a 3-1 lead.

Rinaldo Persson put the 27-year-old under pressure in the next game but Boulter saved two break points to keep momentum on her side, before going a double break up and serving out the set.

Having exchanged breaks at the start of the second set, the Swede broke at 4-3, but she missed four set points and dropped serve while attempting to level the match.

Forcing a tie-break, Boulter held her nerve to pounce at the right moment and the partisan crowd erupted as she secured the win that put Great Britain ahead for the first time in the tie.

"You're not going to save set points without a little bit of heart, a little bit of luck, a little bit of hard work and trusting the process of what I've put in these past, many countless years and today it pulled off," Boulter said.

"Another day it might not but I'm very glad today it did and it was for my country which makes it a little bit sweeter."


BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

Despite the shock of losing the first match of the tie, this was ultimately a comfortable weekend for GB and it means they can have a crack at winning the trophy in 2024.

The draw for April's qualifying round will take place later this month and Anne Keothavong can look forward with a certain amount of optimism.

The team does not currently boast any top-50 players, but with Katie Boulter, Jodie Burrage, Harriet Dart, Heather Watson and hopefully Emma Raducanu to choose from next year, there should be competition for places.

The challenge for Burrage - and her captain - will be to make sure yesterday's grisly debut does not affect future performances.

The 24-year-old handled the disappointment impressively in public. She spoke honestly about the pressure in the post-match press conference and was a smiling and supportive member of the team bench on Sunday.

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