Britain’s Fed Cup tennis team qualified for the World Group II play-off stage of the competition for the first time in four years last weekend, as Anne Keothavong’s women saw off the Croatian team 2-1 in a close-run deciding set. With British number two Heather Watson seeing off Donna Vekic in straight sets before Johanna Konta faltered against Ana Konjuh, a doubles match was needed to decide the tie. However, they overcome a series of issues in that game including going two breaks down and losing the first set, followed by ankle trouble for British number one Konta. With that seen to, the team took it to a set apiece and in a nip and tuck final set where the first four games went against serve, with Britain eventually emerge victorious 4-6 6-4 6-3. Keothavong said after the match that she was “absolutely ecstatic” and “so proud” of the team.
Due to the relatively complicated format of the Fed Cup, which is slightly different to the Davis Cup, the equivalent in the men’s game, Britain now go into a play-off draw where they can face both teams from around the world, and countries which have been playing in the elite World Group so far in the competition. If progressing, they themselves will play in World Group II in 2018, in what would be their first return to that level of international competition in 24 years. For Britain, it is the challenge of Romania that awaits in the play-offs, a team who boast players including world number four Simona Halep and suffered a surprise defeat to Belgium in their most recent match in the competition. In addition to Halep, Konta and Watson as well as teammates Laura Robson and Jocelyn Rae could find themselves up against the likes of Irina-Camelia Begu, who was good enough to reach the fourth round of Roland Garros last year, and world number 19 doubles player Monica Niculescu. To add to the scale of the task in front of them, it’ll be an away match for the Brits, due to take place on April 22nd and 23rd.
The format of the competition has long brought about much debate, including from former British team captain Judy Murray, who has argued that the competition ‘is in desperate need of a revamp”, and cited concerns with the competition’s efforts to promote women’s tennis when resigning her post as skipper in March last year. At least for now though, we’re stuck with the Fed Cup we know, and the national team will no doubt be getting ready to give it their all in Romania in a couple of months’ time. Success could bring the latest in a long line of resurgences in the British game.
Featured Image: British Tennis