London | Team GB to face Czech Republic in Prague as LTA ponders hosting BJK Cup Finals

Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas qualifying match against Czech Republic will take place at the historic I. Cesky Lawn Tennis Klub in Prague from 15-16 April, while the LTA is reportedly considering hosting the Finals of the competition in November.

The team are really looking forward to taking on Czech Republic in our 2022 qualifier and hopefully continuing our momentum in the Billie Jean King Cup... Anne Keothavong, Great Britain's Billie Jean King Cup captain

The Qualifiers tie will be the first meeting between Czech Republic and Great Britain since 1995, and the first time they have played on Czech soil, with the clay court venue selected by the host team.

It will see the winner progress to the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Finals, where they will play for the right to be crowned 2022 champions.

The Czech Republic has an impressive record in the competition, having won the trophy 11 times and currently the 4th-ranked team in the Billie Jean King Cup standings.

Great Britain, with Anne Keothavong as the team captain, defeated Mexico at the National Tennis Centre in April 2021 to set up this contest with the Czechs. and move within one tie of the finals.

“The team are really looking forward to taking on Czech Republic in our 2022 qualifier and hopefully continuing our momentum in the Billie Jean King Cup next year,” Keothavong said when the draw was made.

It will be a difficult challenge for Team GB, against a nation boasting 5 players in the World Top 50 and led by the 2021 French Open champion, Barbora Krejcikova, while Britain has 5 players in the Top 160 and Emma Raducanu, the British No 1, who has yet to play in the competition.

Others in contention for a place in the GB team are Heather Watson, Harriet Dart, Katie Boulter and Francesca Jones.

Anne Keothavong, Britain's Billie Jean King Cup team captain, is looking forward to meeting the Czechs in Prague

Meanwhile, several recent reports, first published in The Times, indicate that the LTA is considering making a £10m bid to host the Billie Jean King Cup Finals as part of its plan to tap into the Raducanu effect, and believing it would be a significant step to host the latter stages of the women’s international team tournament from 8-13 November.

Previously known as the Fed Cup, the largest annual female sports competition in the world was re-branded in 2020 and has around 100 nations participating, but the Finals features the top 12 nations participating in a round-robin group stage, followed by the knock-out semi-finals and final.

Great Britain would be guaranteed a place if it hosted the event, with potential venues including indoor stadiums in London, Glasgow and Manchester, where 2 temporary show-courts are needed to stage the Finals.

The cost of £9 million in prize-money alone, plus other unknown associated staging costs, would be a significantly steep investment in women’s tennis in this country, but the chance to harness the marketing power of 19-year-old Raducanu seems too good for many officials to pass up.

The teenager’s shock success in winning the US Open last September saw Raducanu become an instant star, and created a new role model for young girls across the UK.

Britain’s BJK Cup team has not competed in the latter stages of the competition since 1993, and played only 3 ties on home soil since then, including a play-off against Mexico last year behind closed doors at the NTC in Roehampton, southwest London.

As the ATP Finals at London’s O2 arena ended in 2020, there are now few chances to watch top-level tennis in Britain outside of the grass-court season, although the Laver Cup, the Ryder Cup-style men’s team competition between Europe and the United States, is due to be held at the O2 from 23-25 September.

Switzerland is the only nation to have already booked a place in the BJK Cup Finals after finishing runners-up in Prague last year, while Russia, the 2021 champions, have been suspended by the ITF in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, and will not be defending its title.

Is the O2 Arena in Greenwich in the running alongside Glasgow and Manchester to host the Billie Jean King Cup Finals?

© Oli Scarff/Getty Images



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