WATCH: The moment Belinda Bencic defeats Ajla Tomljanovic to clinch Switzerland's first Billie Jean King Cup title

By design and by intent, tennis players are solo acts. A great many love that. “It’s one-on-one out there, man,” said Pete Sampras. “There ain’t no hiding. I can’t pass the ball.”

But then there come those occasional moments when tennis becomes a team sport.

Because these collaborative endeavors are so rare, all actions that accompany them are greatly magnified. The pressure that comes with joining forces with others and representing one’s nation triggers a wide range of emotional reactions, distinct interactions between teammates, and, quite often, exceptionally dramatic tennis. Much of that surfaced today in Glasgow during the Billie Jean King Cup final between Switzerland and Australia—until it didn’t.

Were today’s order of play for anything but a team event, the two matches that earned Switzerland its first Billie Jean King Cup title would fly by the collective radar screen. First, 35th-ranked Jil Teichmann beat world No. 237 Storm Sanders 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Second, No. 12 Belinda Bencic defeated 33th-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-2, 6-1. In a tournament setting, these are matchups typically witnessed in the early rounds, likely in front of modest crowds, the outcome usually generating nary a news ripple.

But when you add in national flags, lively partisan fans, the iconic Billie Jean King sitting in the front row and a worldwide television audience, all was ripe for high drama—and what was surely one of the greatest days in the history of Swiss tennis.


The Swiss squad had previously reached two finals, most recently losing last year the Russian Tennis Federation.

The Swiss squad had previously reached two finals, most recently losing last year the Russian Tennis Federation.

Both recent and distant past played their role in today’s final. The Swiss squad had previously reached two finals, most recently losing last year to a Russian Tennis Federation team led by red-hot Liudmula Samsonova. Not once, though, had they ever won this event.

The Australians—arguably tennis’ consummate team nation—were in the finals for the 19th time and seeking an eighth title. But their last triumph had come nearly 50 years ago, back in 1974.

Each Swiss player carried powerful memories from the 2021 Billie Jean King Cup. Teichmann was surely encouraged by her 6-0, 6-3 semifinal victory over Sanders. On the other hand, while Bencic that same day had beaten Tomljanovic, 6-3, 6-2, she’d also lost the decisive match of the finals, beaten by Samsonova, 6-4 in the third.

As much as Sanders and Tomjlanovic have proven themselves Billie Jean King Cup stalwarts, when 2022 started, Australia had reason to think others would also contribute. Most notably, there was world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty. But soon after winning the Australian Open, Barty announced her retirement. Then there was the case of the crafty and tenacious Daria Saville (nee Gavrilova). Ranked as low as 627 in the world in February, Saville had soared all the way back to 55 by September—only to suffer a torn ACL at a WTA event in Tokyo.


Teichmann and Sanders kicked it off on Sunday, an all-lefty battle that left last year’s route in the dustbin. This was high-stakes tennis at its best, a two-hour and 19-minute nail-biter highlighted by crisp forehand-to-forehand rallies, sharp all-court skills and several twists and turns. Time and time again, Sanders fought back to stay close to Teichman. Serving in the first set at 1-4, Sanders saved two break points. And though Teichmann eventually closed out the 39-minute opener, 6-3—not facing a single break point all set—it was hard at that point to imagine her running away with the match as she had 12 months earlier.

Or would she? In the second set, Sanders serving at 1-1, 15-30, Teichmann closed out a magnificent 26-shot rally with a sharp crosscourt backhand winner. On the next point, the Swiss hit a swing volley winner to earn the break. Following that game, Sanders received treatment on her left leg.

But in the next game, holding a point for 3-1, Teichmann missed a makeable backhand volley and eventually lost serve. Now Sanders was the one with momentum, her movements more assured, the Australian’s groundstrokes struck with more pace and depth. Over the balance of the second set, each had moments of clarity and fuzziness. With Sanders serving at 4-all, 15-30, Teichmann sprayed a forehand long, the start of a five-point run for the Australian. Serving at 4-5, 15-30, Teichmann double-faulted and, after fighting off two set points, double-faulted again to hand Sanders the set.


“I feel amazing right now,” said Teichmann (left). “It was a great battle... Today’s a big day for us.”

“I feel amazing right now,” said Teichmann (left). “It was a great battle... Today’s a big day for us.”

As the third set got underway, Teichmann appeared to be in control, taking a 2-0 lead. Here again, though, Sanders fought back to win the next two games. And then came the kind of moment that makes even the world’s best tennis players so resolutely human. Serving at 2-all, Sanders held a game point, elicited a short lob from Teichman—and lined the overhead into the net. Two points later, Sanders double-faulted. From there, Teichmann aggregated one point after another, with both air-tight play and, when necessary, extra electricity. Serving at 4-3, 30-all, Teichmann constructed a sublime combo: an excellent serve wide in the deuce court, followed by a crosscourt forehand swing volley winner. At 40-30, Teichmann pinpointed an ace down the T. In the next game, she broke Sanders, on match point number one closing it out with an untouchable down-the-line forehand.

“I feel amazing right now,” said Teichmann in her post-match on-court interview. “It was a great battle... Today’s a big day for us.”

An interesting team subplot was that as the third set got underway, Tomljanovic left the Australian team bench, off to the locker room to gather herself prior to playing Bencic—standard pre-match procedure. But Bencic remained courtside. One wondered how that might affect her energy.

The answer came swiftly. While Tomljanovic hits powerfully off both sides, she repeatedly proved unable to keep up with Bencic’s ability to strike the ball early and accurately—most of all with her laser-like down-the-line backhand. As rallies swiftly turned into points and points turned into games, Bencic remained tranquil. After nearly 76 minutes, she led, 6-2, 5-1. Upon reaching championship point, Bencic wandered courtside to briefly slap hands with Teichman. It ended when Tomljanovic netted a backhand.

Recall how at last year’s Olympics, Bencic had earned a gold medal in singles and a silver in doubles. As Bencic has proven once again, for some tennis players, team play might well be far more comfortable than the solitude of tournament life.

Certainly, it’s compelling to watch—but perhaps only because it happens so rarely.