Following the success of the British Davis Cup team, Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong recently declared that she wanted to see her team match that success in the 55th edition of the competition.
Prosperity has been hard to come by over the years, indeed it was 24 years since Britain last reached the World Group, the top tier of the Fed Cup. We have never won the Fed Cup title but Aegon GB have reached the final on four occasions previously.
But this time around they certainly have reason for optimism, boasting a top ten player in Johanna Konta as well as Heather Watson who is ranked in the top 100 for both singles and doubles.
The format of Group 1 Europe/Africa Zone (two tiers below the World Group) is that 14 countries are divided up into four groups and the winners of each pool go through to the promotional play-offs and the winners of those encounters go through to the World Group II play-offs.
In Britain’s group was Latvia, Turkey and Portugal and they quite frankly breezed through without any trouble. They won all their matches 3-0 only dropping one set throughout.
A tougher challenge awaited in the promotional play-offs against Croatia, possessing two top 100 players in Donna Vekic and Ana Konjuh. And this was very much the case as although Watson beat Vekic with little trouble in straight sets, Konta suffered a surprise straight sets defeat to Konjuh.
For the doubles Konjuh teamed up with Darija Jurak, a top 30 doubles player and on the British side Watson teamed up with Konta. It proved to be a tight affair but the Brits ultimately prevailed in 3 sets, coming from behind, much to the delight of the captain. Keothavong described the week as ‘a real emotional rollercoaster’ as well as expressing her pride at the way her team performed.
Next up in the World Group II play offs is a tricky looking tie away to Romania in April. They possess world number 4 Simona Halep, French Open finalist in 2014, as well as Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu who are both top 50 players with Niculescu also being a top 20 doubles player. It will be a tough test with Romania winning 4 out of 5 previous encounters against their European counterparts.
Great Britain, ranked 22nd currently in the competition, will be looking to escape the Europe/Africa zone group 1 after 13 years at that level. Both Heather Watson and Johanna Konta will have to be at the top of their game if Britain are to progress.