What was the Fed Cup is coming to these shores in the new form of the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas from 16-17 April, but Britain’s Johanna Konta will not be leading the Team GB against Mexico in the Play-Off tie to be held at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton.
Heather [Watson] has shown great commitment to the team and the competition over the years and Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart have both shown their character in recent ties as well. Along with Katie Swan and Jodie Burrage we have a strong group of players who I’m confident can do us proud. Anne Keothavong, GB Team Captain
The British No 1 has made herself as unavailable as she manages a long-standing knee issue that makes it a struggle to change from surface to surface.
With the WTA Tour now in its clay-court swing, Konta does not want to return to an indoor hard court.
“Had it been on clay, that could have been a different conversation,” she told the PA news agency.
“I’m definitely not ruling myself out, I would love to still play in the competition. But I will definitely have to decide in a way that I know it will fit with the needs of my body.”
The World No 18 plans to begin her clay-court campaign in Stuttgart next week and is hoping for a run of tournaments after a stop-start 18 months.
Since Konta’s knee issue forced a premature end to her resurgent 2019 season, she has played just 13 tournaments, winning more than one match in a week only twice.
With Konta absent, this leaves British No 2 Heather Watson, ranked 67, leading the squad alongside Katie Boulter, who has a impressive record in the team tournament, with No 149 Harriet Dart, No 245 Katie Swan, No 256 debutant Jodie Burrage and No 292 Katie Boulter completing the team.
A win of the tie against Mexico will see Team GB advance to a one-off qualifier, with the chance of making it to the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals.
Team captain Anne Keothavong said: “I’m pleased to be able to announce the squad for this tie and I’m really looking forward to everyone linking up again.
“Heather has shown great commitment to the team and the competition over the years and Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart have both shown their character in recent ties as well.
“Along with Katie Swan and Jodie Burrage we have a strong group of players who I’m confident can do us proud.
“We all know the LTA’s National Tennis Centre very well and we’re looking forward to a competitive tie in familiar surroundings, and hopefully we can advance to the 2022 finals.”
Mexico have also been dealt a blow with the absence of their No 1 Renata Zarazua, so World No 285 Marcela Zacarias, No 432 Giuliana Olmos, No 477 Fernanda Contreras and Julia Garcia Ruiz complete the line-up for their trip to London.
Elsewhere, World No 3 Simona Halep, No 5 Elina Svitolina and No 10 Kiki Bertens headline the nominations for the Billie Jean King Cup Play-offs.
The trio are the star names across the 16 teams that will do battle in 8 ties, with 7 in Europe and 1 in Argentina, next week in a bid to secure their place in the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers in 2022.
It is a milestone weekend for the competition, and the first since it was re-branded last September to become the first major global team event to be named after a woman.
“It is an honour to represent our country in a competition named after a true pioneer not just for women’s tennis, but women in general,” said Canada captain Heidi El Tabakh, summing up the feelings of many set to take part.
Romania are also entering a new era, with player-captain Monica Niculescu set to become the 12th female to head up a nation competing at play-off level or above when she takes the reins against Italy in Cluj-Napoca.
Niculescu will hope Halep, Romania’s leading woman on the court, can extend her 8-match winning streak in singles matches for her country.
Halep has not lost a singles match in the Billie Jean King Cup since 2016, when she fell to Germany’s Angelique Kerber, and she will be determined to continue that form against the Italians.
Niculescu, who would likely compete in doubles if required, has also named Patricia Maria Tig, Irina Maria Bara and Mihaela Buzarnescu for the tie, while Italy will be led by World No 99 Martina Trevisan and supported by Jasmine Paolini, Elisabetta Cocciaretto, Giula Laura Gatto Monticone and Bianca Turati.
Svitolina, meanwhile, is set to play her first Billie Jean King Cup tie on home soil since 2017 when she anchors a strong Ukrainian side against Japan in Chornomorsk.
The 26-year-old, who will be joined by Marta Kostyuk, Katarina Zavatska, and Nadiia and Lyudmyla Kichenok, has a 12-10 record from 16 ties since making her debut in 2012, and will be heavily favoured to further improve that record against inexperienced opponents.
Japan’s team to travel to Ukraine features 4 BJK Cup debutants, headlined by rising star Yuki Naito.
Naito, 20, climbed to a career-high ranking of No 169 at the end of March after winning her 6th pro singles title at W25 Buenos Aires, and admitted her pride at being picked to lead the team alongside Chihiro Muramatsu, Shiho Akita and Himari Sato.
“I am honoured to have been selected as a member of the Billie Jean King Cup for the first time,” she said. “I will do my best to contribute to the Japan national team.
“Thank you to all the fans who have always supported me.”
Paul Haarhuis’ Dutch team will again call on the experience of Bertens when they take on China, PR in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Since making her debut in the competition a decade ago, Bertens has established herself as one of the leading BJK Cup players of her generation, winning 20 of the 22 singles matches she has played while representing her nation.
Bertens is joined by Arantxa Rus, Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs to take on the Chinese team, which is comprised of Shuai Zhang, Saisai Zheng, Yifan Xu, Xiyu Wang and Xinyu Wang.
Canada will travel to Serbia with World No 72 Leylah Fernandez, Rebecca Marino, Carol Zhao and Sharon Fichman following the injury-related withdrawal of their No 1, Bianca Andreescu, while the Serbs have nominated Nina Stojanovic, Olga Danilovic, Aleksandra Krunic, Ivana Jorovic and Lola Radivojevic.
Urszula Radwanska returns to the Polish team for the first time in 6 years for their play-off with Brazil on home soil in Bytom, with World No 51 Magda Linette, Katarzyna Kawa, Magdalena Frech and Paula Kania-Chodun also feature in Dawid Celt’s side.
Gabriela Ce, Laura Pigossi, Carolina Meligeni Alves and Luisa Stefani will feature for Brazil, who are aiming to maintain their undefeated record against Poland, having won their only previous clash back in 1989.
Anastasija Sevastova and Jelena Ostapenko will lead the line for Latvia when they take on India in Jurmala, with Diana Marcinkevica, Daniela Vismane and Patricija Spaka also named in captain Adrians Zguns’ team.
Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina both feature in India’s team.
Mirza, the former doubles World No 1, and Raina, who became the second Indian player to win a WTA title in February, will be joined by Rutuja Bhosale, debutant Zeel Desai and Karman Kaur Thandi.
World No 46 Nadia Podoroska, Lourdes Carle, Victoria Boso, Guillermina Naya and Jazmin Ortenzi make up Argentina’s team for the visit of Kazakhstan, who, along with player-captain Yaroslava Shvedova, will travel to Corboda with Elena Rybakina, Yulia Putintseva, Zarina Diyas and Anna Danilina.