Federation Cup Qualifier: Slovakia v Great Britain
Great Britain face a tough test in Slovakia during early February as they strive to book their place in the new-look Federation Cup Finals.
Australia, France, Hungary and Czech Republic are already through to the final tournament in April, with a further eight nations set to join them following a qualifying round.
GB had been in the third tier of the competition for 26 years, before securing promotion to the World Group by defeating Kazakhstan in London back in April.
If Britain lose the match against Slovakia, they would compete in another play-off tie to determine their fate in 2021.
A victory in that fixture would secure another chance to reach the finals next year, while defeat would see them relegated back to the Europe/Africa Zone.
Read on as we look at how GB progressed to the qualifiers and assess their chances of making it through to the 2020 Federation Cup Finals.
Unlikely victory seals date with Slovakia
Katie Boulter looked an unlikely candidate to be a winning Federation Cup tennis bet as she trailed Zarina Diyas by a set and a break in their crucial play-off match.
The British number two struggled to cope with a back problem during the game, but battled through the pain to secure a 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 6-1 victory.
That result sealed a 3-1 success for GB over Kazakhstan to end a 26-year wait for promotion and set up the qualifying tie against Slovakia.
Johanna Konta’s earlier 4-6 6-2 7-5 win over Yulia Putintseva had put GB on the cusp of promotion and Boulter dug deep to complete the job.
Top pair’s absence a big blow to GB
Having played an integral role in helping GB secure their spot in the qualifying stage, both Konta and Boulter will miss the tie against Slovakia.
Boulter’s absence is understandable after she spent six months on the sidelines last year with a stress fracture of her back.
An ongoing knee issue was cited as the reason for Konta’s withdrawal, with the 28-year-old saying she was pulling out to protect her future career.
However, having exited the recent Australian Open in the first round Konta clearly needs to get some game time under her belt and her decision is hugely disappointing news for GB.
GB face an uphill battle in Slovakia
GB are ranked above Slovakia in the current Federation Cup rankings, but they are likely to have their work cut out in Bratislava.
Heather Watson, Harriet Dart, Naiktha Bains, Katie Swan and Emma Raducanu have been named in the squad, with Watson the only player currently ranked in the world’s top 100.
Viktoria Kuzmova is the highest ranked player in the tie at 60, with Jana Cepelova, Rebecca Sramkova, Magdalena Rybarikova and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova completing Slovakia’s line-up.
With home advantage in their favour and two of Britain’s best players ruled out, Slovakia look a good bet to book their place in the 2020 Federation Cup Finals.
Rising Chinese star Zheng Qinwen surges into first WTA final in Tokyo
Zheng Qinwen will contest her first WTA Tour final against Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova in Tokyo.
Team Europe take lead in Laver Cup as Roger Federer watches
Matteo Berrettini gave Europe the edge in the Laver Cup on Saturday.
Roger Federer hints at farewell tour ‘to say thank you to fans’
Roger Federer lost his final competitive match but wants to say farewell to his fans all over the world in some way.
Roger Federer’s classy farewell reminds others how it should be done
Compare Federer’s farewell with that of Serena Williams at the US Open and you observe a very different route to an exit.
Emma Raducanu halted by injury once again as she retires from Korea Open semi-final
Emma Raducanu missed out on a place in the Korea Open final after an injury halted her promising run in Seoul.
Roger Federer ends illustrious career with doubles defeat at Laver Cup
The Swiss great announced last week this doubles tie would be the final match of his professional career.
Emotional Roger Federer bids tearful farewell to professional tennis
Federer partnered with Rafael Nadal in the final match of his illustrious career.
A closer look at the incredible career of Roger Federer
The Swiss maestro is hanging up his racket after the Laver Cup.
Emma Raducanu reacts to reaching her first WTA Tour semi-final
The 19-year-old beat Magda Linette 6-2 6-2 in Seoul and will face top seed Jelena Ostapenko for a place in the final.
Fiery climate protest interrupts Laver Cup match in London
The incident happened during the clash between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman.