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.
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