EXCLUSIVE – Clare Balding: Fed Cup success can inspire a boom in the women’s game

Clare Balding BT Sport Fed Cup coverage

BT Sport host Clare Balding believes victory for Great Britain in Sunday’s Fed Cup match against Kazakhstan could be a catalyst for a boom in women’s tennis in the UK.

With the tie poised delicately at 1-1 after a dramatic opening day at London’s Copper Box Arena that saw Johanna Konta beat Zarina Diyas in three tight sets and home favourite Katie Boulter spurn three match points in an agonising defeat against Kazakh No 1 Yulia Putintseva, Balding is hoping for Team GB success on Sunday that will secure a place in the Fed Cup World Group II for the first time in 26 years.

“If these girls can get into the World Group of the Fed Cup it could really ignite interest in the women’s game like never before in this country,” Balding told Tennis365 in an exclusive interview.

“We are a country that really loves our tennis, but it tends to be focused around the two weeks in the summer when Wimbledon is on and if we had success like we saw with our men’s team as they won the David Cup in 2015, the nation can get right behind a team event when we have some success in it.

“We have waited a long time for a ladies champion and that means we are desperate for someone make that breakthrough and we had real evidence of the appetite to see a new star emerge when Jo Konta got through to the semi-finals at Wimbledon two years ago.
Great Britain Fed Cup squad

“She rose to number No 4 in the world on that back of that performance and the viewing figures we saw for her semi-final match were the biggest of the whole tournament, even beating the men’s final featuring Roger Federer.

“We love to get behind someone who is successful and we saw how popular Andy Murray became when he started achieving success. Hopefully Fed Cup success can be a catalyst for a boom in the women’s game in the country, but we need to build some real strength in depth in our squad to have sustained success in the Fed Cup.

“You can’t get the coverage in the press outside of the tennis writers and that is why this weekend is so important for the game in our country.”

BT Sport 2 will screen the final day of the Fed Cup World Cup play-off between Great Britain and Kazakhstan throughout Sunday.

Kevin Palmer

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