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Harriet Dart sets up doubles decider with win over Ajla Tomljanovic

Harriet Dart celebrates during her win over Ajla Tomljanovic (Jane Barlow/PA)
Harriet Dart celebrates during her win over Ajla Tomljanovic (Jane Barlow/PA)

Harriet Dart produced more Billie Jean King Cup heroics to draw Great Britain level against Australia and set up a deciding doubles rubber in the semi-final in Glasgow.

After the high of their unexpected and hugely impressive victory over Spain on Thursday to make the last four for the first time since 1981, a 6-4 7-6 (3) loss for Heather Watson against Storm Sanders left Anne Keothavong’s side in the last-chance saloon again.

But Dart, who claimed one of the best victories of her career against 13th-ranked Paula Badosa, delighted the sizeable crowd at the Emirates Arena by defeating 33rd-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic.

Twenty-nine-year-old Tomljanovic, who sent Serena Williams into retirement at the US Open and has had the best season of her career, was Dart’s third big-hitting opponent of the week.

She started slowly, though, and Dart took full advantage, picking up where she left off against Badosa and powering into a 3-0 lead.

Tomljanovic found her range but the British number two kept her nose in front until she served for the set at 5-3, when the pressure on her serve told.

She missed a set point on Tomljanovic’s serve in the next game but the Australian, who has been fighting off a reputation as a player who struggles at the big moments, faltered badly in the tie-break.

A tally of 17 winners to five in favour of Dart showed showed how well the 26-year-old had played, and she made the perfect start to the second set with another break.

Tomljanovic looked frustrated and a slew of errors gave Dart another break for 4-1, from where there was no way back.

Watson denied feeling the pressure of expectation against a player ranked significantly lower and instead said the early start to the match – Britain had previously played in the evening – had affected her.

But, whatever the reason, it was clear from the start this was not the same Watson from Thursday, who had barely missed a ball in a 6-0 6-2 pasting of Nuria Parrizas Diaz.

Heather Watson (left) is consoled by captain Anne Keothavong after losing to Storm Sanders
Heather Watson, left, is consoled by captain Anne Keothavong after losing to Storm Sanders (Jane Barlow/PA)

Sanders has never made the top 100 and is ranked down at 237 but at her best is clearly a much better player than that and she had claimed two confident singles wins this week.

She is also a top-10 doubles player and immediately put Watson under pressure, breaking serve in the third game and using intelligent tactics to stop her opponent finding any rhythm.

Sanders took a medical timeout at the end of the first set for treatment to her right hip area and initially appeared to be in some discomfort, but Watson missed a chance to move 3-0 ahead in the second and from there the Australian resumed her ascendancy.

“I’m really disappointed that I wasn’t able to get the result that I wanted today for the team, but I gave it my best,” said Watson. “It was still a good match.”