Russia clinch Billie Jean King Cup

Russian players pose with the trophy. Photo: Reuters

Prague: Russia claimed their fifth Billie Jean King Cup title on Saturday after Daria Kasatkina and Liudmila Samsonova handed them an unbeatable 2-0 lead over Switzerland.

After Kasatkina had romped to a 6-2, 6-4 win over Jil Teichmann, Samsonova held her nerve despite being a late replacement for the injured Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Belinda Bencic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 and secure Russia their first title since 2008 in the women's team competition.

Samsonova raised her arms in victory and was embraced by her teammates, while American great Billie Jean King watched on from the stands.

"It is unbelievable. It was an incredible fight," an emotional Samsonova said on court.

The win capped an impressive week for the five-member Russian squad, who were all ranked in the top 40.

Even when they were unable to field their top player on Saturday, world No. 12 Pavlyuchenkova, the Russians did not lose their focus.

Kasatkina, playing only her second match of the week, got the Russians off to a strong start by breaking Teichmann's serve in the first game and never looked back.

"The mentality was the key," the 24-year-old Russian said. "I was tough from the beginning to the end."

In the second rubber, Bencic and world No. 40 Samsonova split the first two sets. In the decider, the Russian saved a break point midway through the set with an ace en route to taking a 4-2 lead.

Bencic, seeking to give Switzerland a first title, never got another chance to break as Samsonova sealed the win.

"The team are amazing. They achieved this because they are a team," Russian captain Igor Andreev said.

Russia, which had won their previous titles all in the mid-2000s, were competing in Prague as the Russian Tennis Federation due to doping sanctions that prevent them from using their country's flag and anthem.

With many top names opting to skip the competition this year in order to focus on next week's season-ending WTA Finals, the International Tennis Federation said on Saturday that next year's event would take place a week later.

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