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Rae: “To see our girls leaving everything out on the court and having a good time in getting on together, taking everything in their stride, performing great on the court too, of course it’s inspiring”
Last Updated: 11/02/19 4:21pm
An emotionally-drained Jocelyn Rae says Great Britain’s Fed Cup team gave a supreme physical effort to seal qualification to the World Group II play-off in April.
Rae, who has been part of captain Anne Keothavong’s support staff since retiring from the sport in 2017, saw the women book their place in April’s tie thanks to a drama-filled Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 play-off win over Serbia on Saturday.
Hosting a home Fed Cup tie for the first time in 26 years, Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter inspired Britain to victory over Slovenia, Greece and Hungary in Group A before they swept to more success against Serbia at the University of Bath at the weekend in front of a partisan home crowd.
Great Britain will go into the hat with World Group II first round losing nations Italy, Japan, Netherlands and Slovakia as well as three teams that came through Group I promotion matches Brazil, Kazakhstan and Russia.
But the pair had to show all of their fighting spirit as they won three-set marathons along the way with Konta requiring medical treatment by the end of it after being drained from the exertions.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Rae said she is “honoured” to be part of a side which is achieving great things and is there to offer whatever it takes in order to bring success to the nation.
It couldn’t be more positive because they were four really, really tough ties against tough nations and I thought the way we came through them was just great.
“I was part of the team which went to Estonia and Japan and when I finished playing Anne called me up and asked me to still be a part of it in a kind of team gel, keeping the morale up, type of role, but they do that anyway. Anne likes having people that she trusts around her and I do my best to be there for the girls if they need anything,” said Rae.
“I just feel honoured to be part of the team, but we’re getting to the point now with the support staff around all of the girls know what we’re all doing to help them and I think it’s about building that team atmosphere which Anne has managed to do really well which is making a big difference.
“I think for Jo, Katie, as well as Harriet Dart and Katie Swan, who played great doubles, it’s going to push them on. To be able to perform to that level can give you a boost and in terms of the team in April it’s just being able to keep that momentum going and being able to build on what’s already there.
“It couldn’t be more positive because they were four really, really tough ties against tough nations and I thought the way we came through them was just great.”
Konta’s time on court totalled nine hours and 54 minutes with the former Wimbledon semi-finalist revealing that she encountered an out-of-body experience.
“Jo was going to feel it towards the end after playing in such a high pressured situation and in every match she had to dig deeper and deeper,” Rae said.
“Sitting on the sidelines and being around that you’re thinking ‘gosh, can they go any deeper?’ and they just did, so although it was physically tough for them, mentally in those matches the ebbs and flows that they’re experiencing, it’s completely understandable that she felt that huge amount of relief in the end.”
Boulter, who enjoyed a breakthrough year on tour in 2018 when she won her first Grand Slam singles match and broke into the world’s top 100, recorded four wins from four in a memorable week.
“You could just tell that she loved being out there and she handled the pressure brilliantly,” said 27-year-old Rae. “She got the crowd going perfectly and the level she put out on the court was just great. I’m sure she woke up feeling immensely proud of herself.”
Rae also felt emotions were running high on and off the court, saying: “You do go through the emotions as much as you can with them, so yes, I had a good night sleep after it all.
“Seeing Bath transform into a Fed Cup venue, everybody got stuck in and we loved every second of it. I know the girls felt the crowd were incredible and the atmosphere was something I’ve not seen before or been part of, so it was great.
“Apart from that, the quality of tennis was so good with our opponents really stepping up and making the most of the environment while our girls took it all in their stride.”
Speaking on the Tennis Takeaway podcast with Barry Millns and Barry Cowan before the play-offs, Colin Fleming felt the British team could inspire the next generation of female players and Rae could not agree more with the Fed Cup coach.
“To see our girls leaving everything out on the court and having a good time in getting on together, taking everything in their stride, performing great on the court too, of course it’s inspiring,” she said.
“There were a lot of inspiring girls in the crowd watching the action and I think it’s a great opportunity for tennis in our country to do that. It’s was one of the team’s goals and I think they did that well.”
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