Gigi Salmon column: Billie Jean King Cup success, Emma Raducanu impresses on clay, and Rafael Nadal nears return

Sky Sports’ Gigi Salmon reflects on Great Britain’s notable victory over France in the Billie Jean King Cup qualifier, Stefanos Tsitsipas proving the king of Monte Carlo yet again, and a dose of celebrity spotting as she looks forward to Rafael Nadal’s return

Image: Emma Raducanu impressed on the clay in the Billie Jean King Cup

Almost as hard as putting together flat-pack furniture is breaking it up again, something I set myself the task of doing on Saturday afternoon when there was a rare moment of peace and quiet in the house.

But instead of just focusing on the job in hand, I decided to put the Monte-Carlo Masters on the TV, which was at the semi-final stage on Sky Sports Tennis, with the Billie Jean King Cup qualifier between Great Britain and France on my phone – and then get to dismantling two toddler beds.

The BJKC qualifier, which was being played on the clay in northern France, was at a crucial stage: 1-1 after the first day but then 2-1 to GB after British No 1 Katie Boulter beat Clara Burel (in for the injured French No 1 Caroline Garcia) in straights sets on day two.

  • Stefanos Tsitsipas wins third Monte Carlo title in four years
  • Emma Raducanu wins Billie Jean King Cup qualifier
  • Carlos Alcaraz withdraws from Barcelona Open
  • What tennis is live on Sky Sports?

Image: Emma Raducanu came from a set down to beat France's Diane Parry and secure a 3-1 victory for Great Britain in their Billie Jean King Cup qualifier

Victory for Emma Raducanu over Diane Parry and Great Britain would be headed to the finals in Seville in November. For the second day running, Raducanu showed, grit, determination and resilience to come from a set down and win 7-6 in the third set in just under three hours.

Neither Boulter nor Raducanu can point to great experience on clay, a surface chosen by France as the home side to give them an advantage, so winning away against a French side with three top-50 players in their squad is some achievement for Anne Keothavong and Team GB.

The captain put it perfectly: ‘we came, we performed and we’re all leaving with a big smile.’

I’m happy to say that Anne will be joining me for the Madrid Masters live on Sky Sports Tennis from April 23 and I’m sure she will still be smiling!

Image: Katie Boulter performed well on the clay surface at the Billie Jean King Cup

It’s going to be really interesting to see how things play out on the clay for the Brits.

I was listening to an interview with Boulter that she did with WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen, talking about the fitness work she has been doing with trainer Matt Little and the difference she feels it has made and also her thoughts on the clay, a surface she has purposely stayed away from in the past.

She revealed that during the Covid lockdown she decided to play on the clay to learn more about it, which helped mentally, and that now she’s looking to come out swinging!

So needless to say during the final set of that BJKC tie I got very little bed dismantling done, but was too far along to stop, so it was just as well I had the Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals to keep me going.

With Stefanos Tsitsipas inflicting only Jannik Sinner’s second defeat of the year to reach the final, it was the turn of Casper Ruud – who loves the clay, with nine of his 10 titles coming on the dirt – to face world No 1 Novak Djokovic.

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Highlights of the semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Casper Ruud in Monte Carlo.

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Carlos Sainz and Adrien Brody were among the many watching Alexei Popyrin and Andrey Rublev in Monte Carlo.

Djokovic, who now has good friend Nenad Zimonjic in his coaching corner, was back in the final four in the principality for the first time since 2015 when he won the title.

Djokovic, in just his fourth tournament of the year, was not at his best and Ruud would get the biggest win of his career to reach the final, where Tsitsipas would ease to a 6-1 6-4 victory for his first title in over a year and his third in four years in Monte Carlo.

It also means that we go from having no one-handed backhanders in the top 10 a few weeks ago when Tsitsipas dropped out to having two with the Greek player joining Grigor Dimitrov.

Monte Carlo featured some great tennis, some questionable weather and a renewed discussion as to whether HawkEye should be used on clay – technology available but not used at most clay-court events.

We also had a handful of F1 drivers and Zendaya who was last seen watching the action in Indian Wells as she promotes her new film Challengers.

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Carlos Sainz came to the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and caught up with Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner.

Sad and worrying news during the week was Carlos Alcaraz’s withdrawal from the 500 event in Barcelona, where he is the two-time defending champion, with a right forearm injury.

While the news was sinking in that there would be no Alcaraz, it emerged that that 12 time champion Rafa Nadal was practising on ‘Pista Rafa Nadal,’ in Barcelona, the centre court that was renamed after him back in 2017.

Nadal said that his body ‘wasn’t ready’ to play in Monte Carlo, so the hope is that with Roland Garros fast approaching he decides to play and his body withstands the test, remembering that he hasn’t played since Brisbane in January.

Image: Rafael Nadal is working towards his return from injury having not played since January

British interest this week sees Cam Norrie, who has a bye to the second round, and Dan Evans alongside Nadal in Barcelona.

Jack Draper takes his place in the ATP 250 draw in Munich and Raducanu has received a wild card into the main draw for the WTA 500 event in Stuttgart where she has been drawn to face fellow wild card and two-time champion of the event in Angelique Kerber.

As for the beds they are now dismantled. It took a lot longer than I thought, which is always the way, and the moment of happiness as I sat surrounded by planks of wood was soon gone at the thought of the two new beds which are bigger and more complex that will need to be assembled.

Hopefully I can get them done before I head back to the studio for the start of the Madrid 1000 event.

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