Debut to remember as Team Bath Tennis ace Alicia Barnett helps Great Britain reach first Billie Jean King Cup semi-finals since 1981

13 November 2022

Team Bath Tennis ace Alicia Barnett says helping Great Britain reach their first Billie Jean King Cup semi-final in more than 40 years was an “incredible experience”.

Barnett, coached by Ian MacDonald at the University of Bath, and doubles partner Olivia Nicholls were instrumental as GB progressed through the group stages, winning both of their matches in straight sets to the delight of 4,000-strong crowds at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.

The GB debutants then went mighty close to clinching a place in the final, taking Storm Sanders and Sam Stosur – both Grand Slam champions – to a third-set tie-break before the experienced Australian duo eventually edged through.

“It has been an absolutely incredible week,” said Barnett. “The result on Saturday was devastating but it is safe to say we left everything out on court and if you’d told us a week ago we’d reach the semi-finals we’d probably have taken it.

“Playing for Britain was so exciting, there were so many highlights. One of the major ones was getting to know the other girls in the team, we all got along so well and everyone did incredibly. I was up and down in my seat watching from the sidelines, cheering them on and losing my voice.

“I absolutely loved playing in front of the British crowd too, especially seeing all the kids there being inspired. I hadn’t really played in front of a big crowd before Wimbledon this year and my mixed doubles partner, Jonny O’Mara, loves to get the fans involved so ever since then I’ve tried to be more relaxed on court and engage with the crowd. It is such an adrenaline rush when you have that connection and hear that noise.”

Barnett and Nicholls have forged an excellent doubles partnership over the past couple of seasons, sending them soaring up the world rankings, and were selected to make their GB debuts together in Glasgow as LTA Colour Holders No.320 and No.321.

They got off to a stunning start, clinching a valuable point in the 2-1 Group C opening defeat to Kazakhstan with a 7-5 6-3 win over Elena Rybakina and Anna Danilina.

That kept GB’s semi-final qualification hopes alive but they needed a 3-0 win over Spain to achieve that – something the quartet of Heather Watson, Harriet Dart, Barnett and Nicholls completed in glorious style, with a 7-6(5) 6-2 doubles win over Aliona Bolsova and Rebeka Masarova sealing top spot in the group overall.

Australia awaited in GB’s first semi-final since 1981 and it was all square going into the decisive doubles rubber, which saw Barnett and Nicholls take on Sanders – ranked eighth in the world – and former US Open champion Stosur.

An epic encounter saw the Brits battle back from a set and a break down to force a championship tie-break but the Australians narrowly edged it to secure a 7-6(1) 6-7(5) 10-6 victory.

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Top picture credit: Reuters/Ed Sykes

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