PA Sport

Romania v Great Britain talking points

Romania v Great Britain talking points
By PA Sport

21/04/2017 at 11:08Updated 21/04/2017 at 11:12

Great Britain's Fed Cup team will aim to reach World Group II for the first time in 24 years when they take on Romania in the Black Sea resort of Constanta this weekend.

Anne Keothavong's women will be underdogs against a side led by world number five Simona Halep in her home town.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the key talking points.

WILL IT BE A TALKING POINT?

The Fed Cup has become a woefully marginalised competition and has nothing like the profile of its male equivalent, the Davis Cup. That is particularly the case in Britain, where the last home tie came way back in 1993. For the competition to catch the wider public imagination in the way Davis Cup has, Britain must reach the elite level, and success this weekend would be a great start. Even if they win, they would need another two victories to make it into the World Group proper, but there would at least be a decent chance of a home draw. The good news is there are plans to shake up the competition and expand the World Group to 16 teams, the same as in Davis Cup. That cannot come soon enough.

BRITAIN UP AGAINST IT

This is the third time Britain have reached the play-offs in the last six years, and the luck of the draw has not been with them. Playing Romania on clay was probably the toughest challenge they could have faced. Romania, boasting four top-100 players in their team to Britain's one, will go into the tie as heavy favourites.

CAN JOHANNA KONTA BE THE TALISMAN?

Konta is Britain's X-factor, even if clay is not her best surface. The 25-year-old continues to make giant strides and, at number seven in the rankings, is now considered among the contenders for all the big titles. This will be her first action since winning her biggest tournament, the Miami Open, at the start of this month. She beat Halep on her way to the trophy and a repeat here would put Britain in a strong position to pull off the upset.

HEATHER WATSON NEEDS TO STEP UP AGAIN

It has been a rough season so far for Watson, whose ranking has dropped to 113, which means she is almost certain to miss out on direct entry into the French Open. But nothing brings out the best in the 24-year-old like playing for her country. Watson's record, albeit almost exclusively at Europe/Africa Zone level, is excellent, with 25 wins and only seven losses across singles and doubles. In the group stage this year, Watson only lost 12 games in four singles matches. This will be at a different level but, at her best, she should have a chance.

KEOTHAVONG LOOKING TO KEEP WINNING RECORD GOING

Judy Murray tried for five years to get Britain into the World Group before resigning as captain last year in frustration at the limitations of the format. Murray's teams twice reached play-offs, losing to Sweden and Argentina, and Keothavong has a chance to overcome that hurdle at her first attempt. Murray was also hampered by rarely having all her best players available at the same time. Keothavong's first big achievement has been to ensure Konta and Watson are both committed to the team, and the former British number one has the advantage of having played with both. If she can engineer the victory this weekend, it will be a big feather in her cap.

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