The Billie Jean King (BJK) Cup honors a player with the Heart Award each year. According to the official website, the award is aimed to "recognize the players who have represented their country with distinction, shown exceptional courage on court and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the team during the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas."
The BJK Heart Award was first presented in 2009. The idea was originally conceived by the International Tennis Federation. Recently, the winners for the 12th edition of the BJK Cup Heart Award were announced. The winners receive a prize money of $9000 that they can further donate to a charity of their choice.
Nominations for the 2022 BJK Cup Heart Awards were announced on 10th May. These nominations are decided by a special panel comprising of members of ITF and former BJK Cup players.
The list of nominations were:
Americas: Beatriz Haddad Maia, Solana Sierra
Asia/Oceania: Ankita Raina, Shuko Aoyama/ Ena Shibahara
Europe/Africa: Kaja Juvan, Petra Marcinko
Qualifiers: Jasmine Paolini, Ukrainian Team, Iga Swiatek, Marketa Vondrousova
The winners were decided based on the votes of the public through BJK Cup's official website. On 18th May 2022, the winners were announced.
The list of winners:
Americas: Beatriz Haddad Maia
Asia/Oceania: Ankita Raina
Europe/Africa: Kaja Juvan
Qualifiers: Iga Swiatek
The Bridge got in touch with BJK Cup Heart Award recipient of the Asia/Oceania group, Ankita Raina. She became the second Indian to receive this award after Sania Mirza, who was honored with the Heart Award in 2020.
"Extremely honoured and grateful to have won the BJKC Heart Award. Thank you so much for all the love and support over all these years," she said.
"As a little girl, I always dreamt of representing my country and winning for the country. Awards and recognition like these motivate you to keep going behind one's passion. A big shoutout to all those who have been following me and part of my journey... My family, team and sponsors of course (SAG, Yonex and employer ONGC) for their backing," Raina stated.
India finished third in the Asia/Oceania Group earlier this year at the BJK Cup thereby ensuring they stay in the zonal Group I.