With USA and Slovakia through to the inaugural Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals in Budapest, other nations to also qualify for the finale are Belarus, Germany, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Belgium, all hoping to wrest the trophy from defending champions France.
I love being part of a team, that's no secret. That I can contribute this way makes me feel happy. From my side this was a great match. From the very beginning I felt more relaxed than yesterday and my serve was very good today. Kiki Bertens
The full line-up of confirmed teams followed 2 days of action in Fed Cup Qualifiers through which the 8 winning nations will join 2019 finalists France and Australia, wild card Czech Republic and host nation Hungary, bidding to be crowned world champions in Budapest.
Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Netherlands and Romania will compete in the Fed Cup play-offs in April against advancing nations from the regional Group I events.
Argentina, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Serbia and Ukraine all booked their place in the Fed Cup play-offs this week while the final two nations will be decided at the re-scheduled Asia/Oceania Group I event, on 3-7 March, in Dubai.
Over the past couple of days, Russia needed to go the full distance to defeat Romania, suffering a huge scare against an underpowered team but prevailing in a deciding doubles rubber to clinch a nervy 3-2 win in Cluj-Napoca.
World No 28 Ekaterina Alexandrova and 38th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova stepped up for Russia, with Alexandrova beating fellow debutant Elena-Gabriela Ruse on her debut in straight sets to clinch an early lead, but Ana Bogdan, ranked 90, gave hope to home fans with a stellar performance to stun Kudermetova in three sets.
On Day 2 Alexandrova found herself stuck in a three-set battle with the inspired Bogdan, who fought back from a set down to level the rubber, before threatening to steal the lead in the decider but failed to pounce on her chances.
Kudermetova was expected to close out the tie for Russia, and her chances grew after Romania decided to field Jaqueline Cristian for her Fed Cup debut instead of the initial choice of Elena-Gabriela Ruse.
Cristian played at a higher level as the match progressed, coming from 3-5 down to claim the stunning 7-5, 6-3 win in her first match against a top-50 player.
Cristian then paired with Ruse for the doubles against Anna Blinkova & Anna Kalinskaya, and surprisingly, it was the two Annaswho put on a masterclass, taking just 74 minutes to triumph, 6-3 6-2.
Belarus seemed down and out against the Netherlands, but the visitors came back from a 2-1 deficit to silence the home fans in The Hague when Aliaksandra Sasnovich came through a topsy-turvy contest to down Arantxa Rus in three sets and send the tie to a deciding doubles.
This followed Kiki Bertens’ emphatic victory over Aryna Sabalenka earlier on Saturday, before Belarus’ top two combined superbly to finish the job.
“Wow! That’s great. I didn’t know that,” admitted Bertens after the match. “I love being part of a team, that’s no secret. That I can contribute this way makes me feel happy.
“From my side this was a great match. From the very beginning I felt more relaxed than yesterday and my serve was very good today.”
Sabalenka & Sasnovich prevailed 4-6 6-3 7-6(8) in a thrilling doubles, abruptly silencing the army of fans in orange, who had supported their team so vocally until the final ball was struck at the Sportcampus Zuiderpark.
With Schuurs & Bertens each boasting 10 career doubles titles and Sabalenka being the current doubles World No 5, the deciding doubles contest featured a wealth of experience and expertise.
In Brazil, Germany’s Laura Siegemund recorded her second win of the weekend to clinch victory for the visitors.
The World No 73, who had never won a Fed Cup match before, defeated Brazil’s No 1 player Gabriela Ce 6-1 6-2 in an hour 42 minutes to give Germany an unassailable 3-0 lead in Florianopolis.
“Maybe sometimes it look easier than it was,” Siegemund admitted. “We have almost no German fans, except our box so it’s not easy.
“Also the weather conditions – I think the Brazilian are more used to it because it is their kind of weather but for us this was very hot.
“But anyway, we managed. We had to work hard and deal with the circumstances and I’m proud of us.”
After building a comfortable 2-0 overnight lead on Friday, Switzerland’s route to Hungary wasn’t without its complications however.
The day began with 17-year-old Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez shocking World No 5 Belinda Bencic, 6-2 7-6(3), to give the visitors hope, before Biel-based Jil Teichmann battled past another Canadian stand-in, doubles specialist Gaby Dabrowski, 6-3 6-4, to wrap up the tie 3-1.
“This weekend was about qualifying to be able to participate and it was a rough one, it was always going to be difficult all the way and they put up a great fight,” Swiss Captain Heinz Guenthardt admitted afterwards.
“They had a lot of bad luck with injuries and sometimes that’s just what happens, but they got back up and really competed today.”
Belgium beat Kazakhstan 3-1 in their qualifier in Kortrijk after having split Friday’s singles rubbers, but on Saturday Elise Mertens overcame Yulia Putintseva, 6-1 7-6, before Kirsten Flipkens secured the winning point for the hosts by beating Zarina Diyas, 6-3 6-4.
“It was very special,” said Flipkens. “This will be one to remember, especially because it’s been a while since we won at home.
“To win the deciding point really means a lot to me personally.”
Carla Suarez Navarro put the seal on Spain’s rout of Japan on Saturday in her final Fed Cup appearance on home soil when she outclassed Kurumi Nara, 6-1 6-3, to give her country an unassailable 3-0 lead at a sunny La Manga Club.
Japan did manage a victory in the doubles rubber, with Shuko Aoyama & Ena Shibahara defeating Lara Arruabarrena & Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, 6-2 6-3, to leave the final score at 3-1 in Spain’s favour, but it was scant consolation.
Spain, playing only a second home tie in 4 years, had expected a tough battle with a Japanese team boosted by the return of two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka after she missed the event last year.
Sadly for the visitors, however, their challenge never materialised.
The tone was set when Osaka played well-below her best, blazing 50 unforced errors in an emphatic defeat to World No 78 Sara Sorribes Tormo in which she won a mere 3 games.
Suarez Navarro comfortably beat Misaki Doi to leave Japan on the brink and the theme continued on Saturday when Osaka was surprisingly left out by Captain Toshihisa Tsuchihashi, sitting subdued on a court-side chair instead, as stand-in 137th-ranked Nara attempted to keep the tie alive.
Against the 7-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Suarez Navarro on her beloved clay, she never really stood a chance.
The draw will be made in Budapest at 6.30pm CET on Tuesday 11 February and will be live streamed on FedCup.com.
The 12 nations will compete in 4 groups of 3 teams, with the 4 group winners contesting the semi-finals before the final on Sunday 19 April.