A place in the Fed Cup Finals is at stake for Great Britain.
This time it does matter. Just last year the British team were triumphant in their play-off match against Kazakhstan to advance to the World Group however weeks after the ITF announced a format change so the tie meant nothing.
This time the British Team who recorded history will aim to actually record it this time in Slovakia in a bid to reach the Fed Cup Finals in Hungary in early April.
Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter were members of the team last year and put themselves on the line to help get the win which ended up being null and void. Katie Boulter played through an injury and ended up missing the rest of the season due to this having hit a career high of top 80.
This time Anne Keothavong’s team will have to do it without Konta and Boulter who have made themselves unavailable for selection.
The team to secure history for Great Britain is:
Heather Watson (Singles – 74 ; Doubles – 120)
Harriet Dart (Singles – 141 ; Doubles – 209)
Naiktha Bains (Singles – 217 ; Doubles – 204)
Katie Swan (Singles – 257 ; Doubles – 467)
Emma Raducanu (Singles – 363 ; Doubles – NA)
Big pressure on Heather Watson to lead the team as leading singles player but Hev has played some very good tennis this year. She came through qualifying to make the semi-finals in Hobart and recorded a good comeback win against Kristyna Pliskova at the Australian Open.
Harriet Dart likewise had a good run at the Australian Open. The 23 year old came through qualifying with wins over Kostova, Gatto-Monticone and Nicole Gibbs. In round one she won from a set down against Misaki Doi 2-6 6-4 7-6 (10-6). Her second round opponent was Simona Halep and after a runaway first set the Brit did give the Romanian something to think about in a 2-6 4-6 defeat.
Naiktha Bains struggled in qualifying in Melbourne losing to Savinykh 6-2 6-2 and then went onto play an ITF event in Australia going home in round two.
Katie Swan hasn’t had much tennis this year. The 20 year old began with a 6-0 6-0 win against Bajagic in Canberra before losing in three to Bondar. Katie did miss the cut off for Australian Open qualifying. About 16 months ago the Brit did reach a career high of 163 in the world.
Emma Raducanu is essentially the wildcard in the team. Emma is ranked at 363 in the world which is a career high ranking and only turned 17 last November.
Emma finished her season with a title win in ITF Pune, in the final she defeated 5th seed and fellow Brit Naiktha Bains 3-6 6-1 6-4 who is also in the team. I can’t imagine that Anne Keothavong wouldn’t have put Emma in without thinking of using her but she has never played an ITF match on clay!
Slovakia who are hosting the tie do have a lot of experience.
Viktoria Kuzmova is their top singles players at 65 and a doubles ranking of 30 but has only one win in four on the singles tour this year.
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova is ranked at 199 at the moment but the 25 year old was ranked inside the top 30 in the world five years ago but has struggled since. Two of her three titles have come on the clay courts.
And finally another player low on the rankings is Magdalena Rybarikova but the experienced Slovakian knows how cause upsets. She was of course semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2017 and was runner-up in Birmingham in her last final in 2018 but has never reached a clay court final.
A win in the tie will see one of the teams qualify for the Fed Cup Finals which is sandwiched in-between Charleston and Stuttgart at the beginning of the clay court season in April.