You wouldn’t know it but the Billie Jean King Cup (formerly the Fed Cup) Qualifiers get underway tomorrow.
Taking place on the 14th and 15th of April, the BJK Cup has had very little media coverage for the premier international team event in women’s tennis.
While not the main event, (the finals are scheduled for November) the BJK Cup Qualifiers features a mouthwatering line-up of world-class players with four of the world’s top 10 players all confirmed to play, as well as a few grand slam winners sprinkled in for good measure.
With some potentially huge match-ups in store, here is our preview for the Billie Jean Cup Qualifiers.
Spain (1) Vs Mexico Puente Romano Club de Tenis, Marbella, Spain Unfortunately, as Spain is without their top-ranked player, Paula Badosa, the top seeds must rely on the lower-ranked compatriots, Nuria Parizas Diaz, Rebeka Masarova, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Marina Bassols Ribera and Aliona Bolsova in their tie against Mexico.
Mexico, on the other hand, has named the same team that defeated Serbia last November: Fernanda Contreras, Marcela Zacarias, Renata Zarazua and Giuliana Olmos.
Ukraine Vs Czech Republic (2)
Megasaray Club Belek, Antalya, Turkey (neutral)
Ukraine will be without its top-ranked player, Anhelina Kalinina, as they take on Czechia on neutral ground in Turkey. Despite this, they will still be a handful for Czechia, with Marta Kostyuk, Dayana Yastremska, Katarina Zavatska, and Lyudmila Kichenok all adding strength to their team.
11-time winners, the Czech Republic (now Czechia), on the other hand, will be led by world No. 16 and 2021 French Open champion, Barbora Krejcikova, who will play alongside Katerina Siniakova, Linda Noskova, Karolina Muchova, and Marketa Vondrousova.
Great Britain Vs France (3)
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, England
Great Britain will be unfortunately without their top player, Emma Raducanu, as they host France. Team captain, Anne Keothavong, has picked an unchanged line-up from the one that came agonisingly close to reaching last year's final in Glasgow, with Harriet Dart, Heather Watson, Katie Boulter, Alicia Barnett, and Olivia Nicholls all named.
2019 winners France, led by world No. 5 Caroline Garcia, who had a huge end to 2022, will also have a strong team consisting of Alize Cornet, Clara Burel, and Kristina Mladenovic. This one could go down to the wire.
Canada (4) Vs Belgium
Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Sustaining another freak injury (tearing 2 ligaments in her left ankle) in Miami recently, Bianca Andreescu is a late, (still unofficial) out for Canada. Nevertheless, Canada has still named a strong line-up, with Leylah Fernandez, Rebecca Marino, and Gabriela Dabrowski all confirmed for the home clash against Belgium.
Belgium's Wim Fissette, meanwhile, is another captain without his top player, with top 30 player, Elise Mertens, not playing. However, the new team captain will still have Ysaline Bonaventure, Greet Minnen, Yanina Wickmayer, and Kirsten Flipkens to call upon as Belgium seek to maintain their stellar record of never missing the Finals.
USA (5) Vs Austria
Delray Beach Tennis Center, Delray Beach, Florida, U.S.A.
USA have perhaps the most formidable team for their Qualifier against Austria, with world No. 3 Jessica Pegula and world No. 6 Coco Gauff already announced for the tie. They will be joined by Madison Keys, Danielle Collins, and Caty McNally, all strong players in their own right that can challenge anyone on their day.
Austria will have their work cut out for them with a team led by Julia Grabher, Sinja Kraus, Barbara Haas, Tamira Paszek, and Melanie Klaffner as they take on an intimidating United States side.
Slovakia (6) Vs Italy
NTC Arena, Bratislava, Slovakia
2002 Fed Cup champions, Slovakia, is another team with a mountain to climb, with only 1 player in the top 100 in a team consisting of Anna Karolína Schmiedlová, Viktoria Kuzmova, Renata Jamrichova, and Tereza Mihalikova.
Italy, on the other hand, has added Camila Giorgi to an already solid line-up, which includes Martina Trevisan, Elisabetta Cocciaretto, Jasmine Paolini and Lucia Bronzetti.
On paper, this looks fairly one-sided but stranger things have happened.
Germany (7) Vs Brazil
Porsche-Arena, Stuttgart, Germany
Germany’s team is nothing to sneeze at, which features the country’s number 1 and 2 players, Tatjana Maria and Jule Niemeier, alongside experienced countrywomen, Anna-Lena Friedsam and Laura Siegemund. The Germans have also recruited the talented 21-year-old Eva Lys, for the second time to add youth to their side.
Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia has been on a rankings rampage in the last 3 years, storming her way from a low of 358 at the end of 2020 to a high of 12 in February this year. The current world No. 13 will have to lead from the front as Brazil look to qualify for the BJK Cup Finals for the first time. Haddad Maia will be joined by Laura Pigossi, Carolina Alves, Ingrid Martins and Luisa Stefani, all outside the top 100.
Kazakhstan (8) Vs Poland
National Tennis Centre, Astana, Kazakhstan
The Kazakhstan team will be led by world No. 10 Elena Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion (and Australian Open 2023 runner-up), as they host Poland. Yulia Putintseva, Gozal Ainitdinova, Anna Danilina, and Zhanel Rustemova will complete a strong line-up, as the Kazakhs aim to reach the BJK Cup Finals for the second straight year.
Poland will be without their world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who will miss the tie due to a rib injury and subsequent infection, that ruled her out of Miami. The Poles still have a decent team consisting of Magda Linette, Magdalena Frech, Weronika Falkowska, and Alicja Rosolska. Without Swiatek, however, the Poles are definitely the underdogs.
Slovenia Vs Romania (9)
Sport Park Bonifika, Koper, Slovenia
Slovenia is looking to advance to the Finals for the first time, naming Tamara Zidansek, Kaja Juvan, Nina Potocnik, Pia Lovric and Ela Nala Milic in their team to face Romania.
All pressure lies on Ana Bogdan for Romania, with 3 of their top 4 players not available for their away trip to Slovenia. Romania is another team looking to qualify for the BJK Cup Finals for the first time in their history. Bogdan’s team-mates include Irina Bara, Jaqueline Cristian, Anca Todoni and Monica Niculescu.
With Romania missing 3 key players, this tie could go either way.
Road to the Finals
All 18 teams are fighting for one of nine places at the 2023 Finals, which will take place in November this year, while the losing nations will have to compete in the Play-offs in November. And where is Australia you might ask? As finalists in 2022, Australia automatically qualifies for the 2023 finals, along with defending champions, Switzerland.