The Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers take place this week as countries look to secure their place in the finals later this year.
Great Britain face a trip to Prague to play the Czech Republic on clay, with US Open champion Emma Raducanu getting her first taste of the competition, which was previously known as the Fed Cup.
We look at what’s in store for the British team, including who’s playing, their chances of victory, and how they could still qualify for the finals even if they lose…
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Who’s playing for Great Britain?
Raducanu, Harriet Dart, Katie Swan and Sonay Kartal make up the British team.
Raducanu, 19, has had a challenging start to the season due to illness and injury. She has only managed two wins in 2022, but has shown some encouraging signs in tight defeats in her most recent matches at the Miami Open and Indian Wells.
Not only will this be the first time she plays in the Billie Jean King Cup – she was selected for the squad in February 2020 but didn’t get on court – but it will also be her first professional outing on clay.
Dart comes into the event on the back of a strong run in Indian Wells that saw her come through qualifying and beat Elina Svitolina and Kaia Kanepi on her way to the last 16. She is now ranked in the top 100 in the world.
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Swan is outside the top 200 but is the most experienced squad member in this competition. She has played in five ties and has an impressive 4-1 record, including winning two singles matches on her debut as a 16-year-old against Israel. Swan won a title at ITF Tour level in February in the Dominican Republic.
Kartal will be making her debut in the competition, having been in good form at ITF level this year, winning two titles and compiling a 16-2 record.
Heather Watson has decided not to play as she looks to focus on her singles rankings and Katie Boulter misses out with injury.
Image credit: Eurosport
Captain Anne Keothavong said: “We are looking forward to the challenge of playing the Czechs. Emma will be making her singles debut. Harriet and Katie have been an integral part of the team the last couple of years, while I’m excited to give Sonay that experience for the first time.
“Every tie creates a unique pressure and intensity, which I’m sure our players will thrive on, and, even though we have a difficult challenge ahead against the Czechs, I have every confidence our squad will do themselves and their country proud.”
How good are the Czech Republic?
The Czechs have been the dominant force in the competition over the last decade, winning the title six times since 2011. However, they are without their three highest-ranked players - world No. 7 Karolina Pliskova, world No. 13 Barbora Krejcikova and world No. 23 Petra Kvitova.
They still boast a strong squad led by world No. 32 Marketa Vondrousova, who made the last 16 of Indian Wells and semi-finals in Dubai. She is joined by top-70 trio Katerina Siniakova, Tereza Martincova and Karolina Muchova.
Siniakova faced Raducanu at the Miami Open last month and came from a set down to win 3-6 6-4 7-5.
Image credit: Getty Images
What’s at stake?
A total of 12 teams qualify for the finals later this year.
Last year’s finalists normally get a place automatically, however, as the Russian Tennis Federation and Belarus have been banned from the competition following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they will not take part.
Defending champions Russia have had their place at the finals taken by Australia, the highest-ranked team to exit in the 2021 semi-finals. Slovakia were set to play a qualifier against Australia but have now also qualified.
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Switzerland are in as last year’s runners-up and Belgium join them as they were scheduled to play Belarus in a qualifier.
Seven teams will come through qualifying and the host nation, which is yet to be announced, will also have a spot.
Great Britain are bidding to host the competition so could still secure a place even if they lose to Czech Republic.
When are the qualifying ties?
The ties take place on April 15-16.
What’s the format?
The ties are best-of-five rubbers, with four singles matches and one doubles.
- Italy v France
- USA v Ukraine
- Czech Republic v Great Britain
- Kazakhstan v Germany
- Canada v Latvia
- Netherlands v Spain
- Poland v Romania
Are many top players involved?
World No. 1 Iga Swiatek will be trying to secure Poland’s place in the finals while world No. 10 Jessica Pegula leads the USA team against Ukraine, who will be without Svitolina as she is taking a break from tennis.
The United States Tennis Association is donating 10% of ticket revenue from the tie to the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund while Billie Jean King and her partner, Ilana Kloss, will donate $50,000 to a Ukrainian relief fund.
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