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7 Nov, 2021 15:51

‘It should not have been allowed’: Russia accused of cheating as ‘amazing’ female tennis stars hail ‘unbelievable’ cup win (VIDEO)

‘It should not have been allowed’: Russia accused of cheating as ‘amazing’ female tennis stars hail ‘unbelievable’ cup win (VIDEO)

Russian tennis stars are ecstatic after winning flagship women's team trophy the Billie Jean King Cup – but a row has broken out after a former champion publicly accused the team of skulduggery.

American doubles great Pam Shriver appeared to be horrified after the Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) stormed to glory at the revamped Fed Cup in Prague, establishing an unassailable 2-0 lead over Switzerland through Daria Kasatkina and newcomer Liudmila Samsonova.

The legend the trophy is now named after watched on from the stands as 22-year-old Samsonova shared her joy at the win, only for fellow retiree Shriver to cast doubts over an injury to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova which had allowed her team to replace the Russian number one with Samsonova.

"Russia played foul with their lineup today," the former world number three claimed on Twitter.

"If I was Switzerland, I would protest. This seems like a premeditated head-to-head manipulation that should not have been allowed, given rankings and rules."

Kasatkina cruised past Jil Teichmann 6-2 6-4 and Samsonova produced an impressive comeback to beat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic 3-6 6-3 6-4 to seal the win.

That gave the RTF – the banner Russia is competing under as part of a ruling by doping chiefs – their first title in the women's competition since 2008 and left Samsonova feeling emotional.

"It is unbelievable. It was an incredible fight," she said, while Kasatkina added: "The mentality was the key. I was tough from the beginning to the end."

Shriver's reaction divided opinion. "They do it often in the Davis Cup," explained one fan.

"They had Kasatkina at number two and Pavyuchenkova at number one. Then: last-minute injury to Pavlyuchenkova – so by the rules they're allowed to substitute anyone, even someone lower-ranked than the number two. Cheeky, but not illegal."

Another hit back: "Russia played by the rules. Maybe there is a need to update them, but they still won two matches out of two."

Others were more pragmatic. "There’s a case for poor sportsmanship but whether Samsonova played or Pav, Bencic had the chance to beat them," argued one viewer.

"She played worse than her opponent, so she lost. Sounds more like sour grapes or clutching at straws to me."

A reader who disagreed with Shriver said: "Pav’s injury was verified by an independent doctor.

"Moreover, in a team event, I am dubious that, if the number one from one team can’t beat the number four from the other team, the former is really the better team. No-one was hurt, no tires were slashed. Bencic lost, full stop."

A tennis fan account suggested: "The question is whether the Russian team knew that Pavs was injured.

"If they knew that at the beginning of the day, then she should never have been nominated in their side and the match-ups would have been different. They may well have been a bit sneaky."

One observer theorised: "The other problem is that if Russia knew, Samsonova would have been getting ready to play Bencic all day, whereas Bencic would have been prepping for Pavs."

Bencic was unhappy with the switch, which is said to have taken place just 20 minutes before the tie was due to start.

"I think it was ugly, to be honest," she said at the time. "And I just think, in the end, the good will win and we will come back and win this title."

Russian captain Igor Andreev was thrilled with the team's performance. "The team are amazing," he said. "They achieved this because they are a team."

The victory meant the Russian team won the cup for the fifth time in its history.

Reacting on Instagram on Sunday, Samsonova thanked her coach and team as she basked in the glow of glory.

"The day after," reflected the world number 40, who won all five of her matches in singles and doubles.

"Still overwhelming. I want to thank you all for your support and for your messages. This was so great, guys."

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