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Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers: Five Must-See Matches

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The 2024 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers are upon us. Eight ties will be decided in a knock-out format on April 12-13.

The eight winners from these ties will progress into the Finals in mid-November. They will be pooled alongside defending champions Canada, the 2023 runners-up Italy, the hosts Spain, and this year’s wild card entrant, team Czechia.

The losing nations in the Qualifiers will compete in the Play-Off stage during the same period in November. On that note, let us take a closer look at some of the most interesting ties scheduled to commence on Friday.

Five Must-See Ties at The Billie Jean King Cup (BJKC) Qualifiers

#1. France vs Great Britain

Tie location: Le Chaudron, Le Portel, France

Surface: indoor clay court

France has a home tie against Great Britain. It will take place at the Le Chaudron in Le Portel, home of the ESSM Le Portel basketball team. At least 3,000 fans are expected to fill the stadium. This will be a rematch of last year’s qualifying match. The French team comfortably won that tie 3-1 in Coventry, England, with former Top 10 player Caroline Garcia acting as the talisman.

This time, the Brits are at full strength and eyeing revenge. Their no. 1 player, Katie Boulter, is in the form of her life, while the return to fitness of the 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu is a massive boost for team captain Anne Keothavong. Harriet Dart and Heather Watson retain their places in the team from last November’s Play-Off win over Sweden.

#2. USA vs Belgium

Tie location: USTA National Campus, Orlando, USA

Surface: outdoor hard court

At first glance, this doesn’t look like a blockbuster, given the amount of talent the USA has at its disposal against minnows Belgium. But what makes this tie particularly special is that it will be Lindsay Davenport’s first assignment as team captain as she takes over the reins from Kathy Rinaldi. The three-time winner of the Billie Jean King Cup has made her first big call, which is to leave USA’s top-ranked player, Coco Gauff, out of the team.

It is possible that Gauff requested not to be selected. That has opened up a spot for one of the breakout stars of 2024, Emma Navarro, who could be tasked with playing on her debut. Davenport has named Jessica Pegula to spearhead the lineup, which also includes Madison Keys, Taylor Townsend, and Guadalajara finalist Caroline Dolehide, who has earned her first nomination.

#3. Ukraine vs Romania

Tie location: Racquet Park Drive at Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach, USA

Surface: outdoor clay court

Ukraine was drawn as the home team in this tie. However, because of the current tension in its territory, the tie against Romania will be played in a neutral venue. The obvious headline act in this tie will be the presence of Simona Halep, who has been recalled into the Romanian team. The former World no. 1 has cleared her name from the doping hall of infamy at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in February and was imminently allowed to pick up a racket again. Jaqueline Cristian (Charleston quarterfinalist) and Ana Bogdan are capable deputies in the event Halep is deemed to lack match sharpness by captain Horia-Vlad Tecau.

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#4. Switzerland vs Poland

Tie location: Jan Group Arena (Swiss Tennis Arena), Biel, Switzerland

Surface: indoor hard court

Iga Swiatek will don Polish colors at this year’s Billie Jean King Cup. Swiatek’s absence from this competition in the past year did not sit well with the tennis fraternity. However, it has to be mentioned that it was completely against her wishes. Scheduling challenges meant that Swiatek prioritized tour-level tournaments.

This week, she is expected to inspire Poland’s victory over 2022 champions Switzerland, who will be without Belinda Bencic. The Tokyo gold medalist is currently on maternity leave. Viktorija Golubic is the home nation’s most experienced player but hasn’t played since January, while Jil Teichmann is out of form. 18-year-old Celine Naef and 23-year-old Simona Waltert might be thrown in the firing line.

#5. Japan vs Kazakhstan

Tie location: Ariake Coliseum, Tokyo, Japan

Surface: indoor hard court

She may not be the top-ranked Japanese woman right now, but four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is the biggest name in the tie pitting Japan against Kazakhstan in Tokyo. Osaka last featured in this competition in 2020. She has a 5-2 record in singles matches at the BJKC. She will be accompanied by Mai Hontama, who impressed playing in home tournaments last year, Nao Hibino, Shuko Aoyama, and Ena Shibahara.

A couple of flashpoints ahead of this tie will give the home nation an edge. They lead the Kazakhs 4-1 in the previous head-to-head ties. Additionally, the ninth-ranked team in the BJKC will be without World No. 4 Elena Rybakina. It will be the combustible and energetic Yulia Putintseva, who will be Kazakhstan’s main player. Surprisingly, former world no. 31 Zarina Diyas (one of few Kazakh-born Kazakhstani tennis players) will be on the team bench. The 30-year-old hasn’t competed since the 2022 French Open.

Main Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports


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