Aussies destroy Belgium amid sad tennis scenes at Billie Jean King Cup

Pictured left, Ajla Tomljanovic celebrates her singles win against Elise Mertens at the BJK Cup.
Ajla Tomljanovic won her singles rubber against Elise Mertens after the Belgian was forced to retire with injury. Pic: Getty

Australia's women have stormed into the semi-finals of the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow, after an unfortunate moment for Elise Mertens that saw the Belgium retire from her singles match.

Storm Sanders and Ajla Tomljanovic, who had both won their singles matches in Tuesday's victory over Slovakia, again produced the goods to seal a 3-0 whitewash of Belgium in Thursday's winner-takes-all group decider.

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The inspired Sanders also won her doubles rubber alongside the evergreen Sam Stosur as Alicia Molik's team reached the last-four for the second year running, confident they can end the country's 48-year-wait to lift the World Cup of women's tennis.

Sanders, a lowly No.237 in the world, appeared once again to be buoyed by the singles responsibility for her country as she blew away Alison Van Uytvanck 6-2 6-2 to put Australia one-up in the tie.

Australia's top player Tomljanovic was then forced to withstand an inspired Mertens, who took a set and 4-1 lead, before disaster struck for the Belgian.

Mertens - no doubt feeling the pinch after jetting in to Glasgow via a marathon, three-flight journey from Texas after winning the doubles title at the WTA Finals - began experiencing discomfort in her shoulder.

The Belgian, who had been so impressive in the opening set-and-a-half, started finding herself in double-fault trouble as she struggled to deal with the shoulder issues.

Tomljanovic eventually levelled the match after taking the second set 6-4 before reeling off three more games to make it eight in a row, leaving Mertens and her Belgian team shell-shocked.

Mertens - who had received medical treatment on her racquet arm - eventually called it quits as she retired hurt to ensure Australia's passage to the last-four.

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With the tie now already decided, Sanders then returned to the Emirates Arena hardcourt, teaming up with 38-year-old Stosur to beat Ysaline Bonaventure and Kirsten Flipkens 6-4 6-3 in the doubles.

"We are in a better position coming into the semis this time, like more confident, where we believe like we can actually win," Tomljanovic said after defeating Mertens.

"Last year we were, like, 'Wow, we made the semis, what a great achievement'. This year it feels a little bit different, as it should. We have showed really great tennis to get ourselves there. Feels good to be in that position."

In the semi-finals, as they seek to win the event formerly known as the Fed Cup for the first time since 1974, Australia will face Great Britain after the hosts trounced Spain 3-0 in their tie.

Doubles top-tenner Sanders may not have won a singles in a WTA tour main draw all year but she admits donning the green and gold somehow raises her game.

Seen here, Australia's Storm Sanders in action against Belgium at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow.
Australia's Storm Sanders kept her impressive run of form going against Belgium at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow. Pic: Getty

Against world No.54 Van Uytvanck, she made a nonsense of the rankings, dominating with excellent serving and her powerful forehand.

"It was actually a tough match, and playing for your country, it's quite emotional," said Sanders, who had also beaten Slovakia's Viktoria Kuzmova in Australia's opening win.

"(Playing for Australia) just brings out the best in me. I just use the support that we have on the sidelines and from home, channel that energy and use it in a positive way on court."

Sanders' attacking approach saw her sweep through the first set in just 23 minutes, but the key was a marathon first game of the second stanza in which the new 'Rockhampton Rocket' - she hails from Rod Laver's home town - saved five break points before a crucial hold.

After that, the Storm wouldn't blow out, as she crashed 18 winners while earning her fourth BJK Cup singles win in just five matches.

with AAP

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