The Great Britain squad will be hoping that 2017 is the year they finally escape the clutches of the dreaded Europe/Africa Zone. They will begin their campaign in Tallinn, Estonia, on Wednesday, with new coach Anne Keothavong saying she wants to “put women’s tennis on the map in this country”.
And there’s never been a better time to move up a level into World Group II (the second tier of the Fed Cup) and beyond: Johanna Konta, the World No.10, Heather Watson, Jocelyn Rae and Laura Robson are all available to play for their country. “For the first time ever we’ve got a top ten player so that in itself gives the team a different feel,” said Keothavong. “We all know what she’s capable of, but Laura and Heather have also had big wins and they’re still very young.”
Great Britain have to win three or four matches in the round-robin in Estonia to advance to World Group II. They have been drawn against Turkey, Latvia and Portugal – teams that only have two top 100 players among them. However, a playoff against Croatia could potentially be difficult.
Great Britain have made it out of the Europe/Africa Zone before. Judy Murray, who resigned as captain last year, led the squad to two World Group II playoffs (in 2012 and 2013), where they lost to Sweden and Argentina.
Johanna Konta, who has started the year in excellent form, is hopeful of replicating the Davis Cup team’s 2015 antics, but is also realistic: “What they achieved was something that was incredibly special, not just for the tennis community but for the whole sporting community in this country,” she told ESPN. “If we ever are in the position to achieve something like that, that would obviously be incredible, but it’s a long road ahead and we’ve got to take it one step at a time.”
The morning session of the Fed Cup in Tallinn begins at 9am GMT on Wednesday 8 February.