Britain, Ukraine and Italy lead 2-0 in Billie Jean King Cup playoffs


(Reuters) - Katie Boulter and Heather Watson won with near-identical scorelines to give Britain a 2-0 lead in their Billie Jean King Cup playoff against Mexico on Friday while Ukraine and Italy also chalked up victories.

With Britain's top-ranked player Johanna Konta sidelined with a knee problem, it was up to Boulter and Watson to take control of the tie in Roehampton.

While Boulter beat Marcela Zacarias 7-5 6-0, with the second set lasting less than 25 minutes, Watson overcame Giuliana Olmos 7-5 6-1 to put Britain in a commanding position in the best-of-five tie.

"Initially I was a little bit nervous... It was a really close first set and I managed to squeeze it through," Boulter said.

"I managed to get into the second set and play some really good tennis... I was very happy with the second set, I'm really happy with how I closed the match out."

The doubles match and the reverse singles matches will be held on Saturday and Britain can take an unassailable 3-0 lead if Watson beats Zacarias.

Earlier, Ukraine took a 2-0 lead over Japan as world number five Elina Svitolina took the first point of the Billie Jean King Cup era.

The old Fed Cup was re-branded last year and named after the American great and 12-times Grand Slam singles champion who won the inaugural tournament nearly 60 years ago.

"Scoring the first point of the Billie Jean King Cup era is a special feeling and hopefully there are many more to come for Ukraine," Svitolina said after beating Japan's Chihiro Muramatsu 6-3 6-2.

Italy also took a 2-0 lead over Romania in Cluj-Napoca after Elisabetta Cocciaretto beat debutant Irina Bara 6-1 6-4 while Martina Trevisan held off Mihaela Buzarnescu to win 6-2 2-6 7-6(5) in an epic encounter that lasted over three hours.

Kazakhstan and Argentina shared the spoils after Yulia Putintseva came from behind to beat Nadia Podoroska 2-6 6-4 6-0 before Maria Carle upset Elena Rybakina 6-4 3-6 6-0 in front of a small but loud crowd.

Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko was tested by India's Ankita Raina but prevailed in three sets with a 6-2 5-7 7-5 victory while Anastasija Sevastova brushed aside Karman Thandi 6-4 6-0 to give her team a 2-0 lead.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru)

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