Le Portel | Preview: GB takes on France with BJK Cup Finals spot at stake 

Great Britain starts it quest to gain a place in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals against France, the 2019 champions, on Friday, keen to reverse last year’s Qualifiers result at Le Chaudron in Le Portel.

I’m very pleased. We’ve missed her [Emma Raducanu]. We love having her back. Obviously the number one thing is that she’s healthy. I’ve always said it for myself, and it’s my biggest wish for her as well, is that she can stay as healthy as possible. We’re going to be welcoming her with open arms for sure. Katie Boulter

Katie Boulter and Emma Raducanu spearhead Team GB’s challenge, with World No 28 Boulter getting proceedings underway in the opening singles match against France’s Diane Parry, before a resurgent Raducanu faces Caroline Garcia.

The tie at is being played on clay, which is not Boulter or Raducanu’s favourite surface, the former having not played a professional match on it, while Raducanu has often shied away from it to prevent injury.

With Paris 2024 on the horizon, though, with Roland-Garros playing host to the Olympic Tennis Event on clay from 27 July to 4 August, both are looking to qualify.

“The Olympics is always something I wanted to play as a kid and, for me, that is certainly a priority,” said Boulter. “I will be playing if I can, and I am looking forward to being a part of something which isn’t only tennis. I’m sure it would be an experience I won’t forget.

“As my record shows, I have not played that much on clay, but it is something exciting and fresh for me – I have nothing to lose here,” added Boulter. “I feel like it is something I can get better at, but it’s a free swing and I am really looking forward to this weekend as the underdog.”

Team GB are very much the underdogs, but the pressure falls on France, who are bidding to reach the Finals for the third time.

“I have not spent so much time on clay in the past few years,” admitted Raducanu. “In the beginning it was interesting, but I learned pretty quickly, and I am starting to feel a lot better on the surface. In the future I think it will be a surface which really suits me.

“I am maybe a little way from that now, but I am enjoying the challenge and I think it’s great we can be in this position playing the French, who are so dominant. We’re the underdogs but we have a lot of game.

France fields a formidable team in Kristina Mladenovic, Diane Parry, Clara Burel, Caroline Garcia and Captain Julien Benneteau in the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers against Great Britain

© Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for ITF

Team GB Captain Anne Keothavong was more stark: “Absolutely, we’re the underdogs. The French have the home support, have experience in their team, and have had a lot of success in this competition.

“We also played the French team 12 months ago and we know the result of that [France won 3-0 in singles], but I am confident and I back my players.

“It is a great opportunity for us and I am looking forward to it. The pressure is all on France.”

France is fielding a strong team, led by Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, members of the triumphant squad that won in 2019, while Parry and Clara Burel are significant talents in support.

Garcia remains a Billie Jean King Cup powerhouse, who has won 12 of the last 15 matches she has played in the competition, and all eyes are on her showdown with Raducanu.

“We’re feeling good, we’ve had good preparation,” said Garcia. “Emma Raducanu is a good player, and she’s proved in the past that she’s got a lot of potential.

“It’s a great match to play, with a lot of intensity. It’s up to the player who imposes her game.”

On Day 2 of this encounter, Garcia is slated to play Boulter before Parry takes on Raducanu, all of which precedes the doubles, with Garcia & Mladenovic set to play Harriet Dart & Heather Watson.

Caroline Garcia of France and Emma Raducanu of Great Britain will play the second match on Friday at Le Chaudron in Le Portel

© Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for ITF

The winners of the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers will all book spots in November’s Finals, while the losers will contest the Play-offs in the same month.

Boulter is very pleased that Raducanu is back in team, saying the squad is welcoming her back with open arms.

Raducanu has made only two appearances for Team GB at the BJK Cup, and that was two years ago during her debut campaign against the Czech Republic in a qualifying round.

The 21-year-old has struggled with injury and form since then, and she missed the bulk of the 2023 season after undergoing surgery on both her wrists and one ankle.

Her come-back, though, has been solid, if unspectacular, as she is 5-5 in win-loss matches so far in 2024, with her last ending in a 3rd-round defeat to Aryna Sabalenka at Indian Wells.

“I’m very pleased. We’ve missed her. We love having her back,” Boulter said. “Obviously the number one thing is that she’s healthy.

“I’ve always said it for myself and it’s my biggest wish for her as well is that she can stay as healthy as possible. We’re going to be welcoming her with open arms for sure.”

The tie is being played on the indoor clay court at Le Chaudron in Le Portel.

“It’s a brutal match-up,” Boulter added.”We’ve already been in this place before, and we had it at home. I think, if anything it could help us, we are completely the underdogs. I think we’ve got a free swing.

“Garcia is clearly playing some very good tennis right now. But it’s another Billie Jean King Cup tie, anything can happen.

“We’ve got to keep it very realistic, it’s everyone’s first week on clay. It’s not my favourite surface but I’m very excited to get on it. I think we will come together as a team, and keep trying to push each other and I’m sure we’ll play some really good tennis.”

(L-R) Emma Raducanu, Katie Boulter and Heather Watson of Team GB field questions during a press conference prior to the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier tie between France and Great Britain on Thursday

© Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for ITF

The Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier tie between Great Britain and France will be available to watch on BBC Sport, BBC iPlayer, as well as the Red Button, while it will also be streamed on Tennis Channel International.

Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers schedule & draw

  • Day one (Friday 12 April) will get underway at 13:30 – with two singles rubbers scheduled.
  • Day two (Saturday 13 April) will start at 12:30 – with a possible three rubbers, two singles and one doubles.

The current head-to-head between Great Britain and France stands at 2-2.



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