Britain has a rare home advantage in the Fed Cup, starting against Slovenia 6th February 2019. The British team comprises of Johanna Konta, Heather Watson, Katie Boulter, Harriet Dart, and Katie Swan, and is captained by Anne Keothavong. They will be quietly confident of qualifying for the World Group for the first time since 1993. However, Hungary could be the main pitfall they need to look out for.
Great Britain need to be wary of a Hungary featuring Fanny Stollar & Timea Babos
Britain will be confident of beating Slovenia and Greece. However, Maria Sakkari and her compatriots will not lie down. Arguably, the biggest test for Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and co. is Hungary. 8th February 2019 could be crunch time for the British Fed Cup team’s plight to avoid another year in Fed Cup wilderness. They play a Fanny Stollar-led Hungary in their final World Group 11 match-up. Britain beat Hungary 2-0 in the Fed Cup last year, but Timea Babos is likely to play singles action instead of Dalma Galfi. Babos can be a tricky opponent.
Fanny Stollar beat Konta in Charleston last season, avenging a 2018 Fed Cup victory by Konta. Granted, Stollar’s victory over Konta came on clay. The indoor hardcourt surface of Bath may even the match or possibly push it in Konta’s favour. Stollar also leads the head-to-head against Heather Watson 1-0, again on clay in Nuremberg 2018. Konta holds a 2-0 head-to-head over Babos and will definitely need to extend that if Britain are to progress. Timea Babos is 1-4 this season, but is a dangerous player capable of finding form at any time. The homecrowd really need to get behind the hosts in this one.
Iga Swiatek & Poland, and Kasatkina & Russia Potentially Await in the Play-offs
Should Britain successfully make it out of their group, then a tough battle awaits against the winners of Group A. This is a tough group, and whilst world #9 Caroline Wozniacki leads the Danish charge, Poland and Russia look like strong units. Immensely talented, Iga Swiatek (#140) is joined by the likes of Magdalena Frech (#194) and Magda Linette (#98), making Poland, arguably, favourites to come through this. Linette is a steady doubles player also; this may be a key if the match is tight and goes down to the doubles rubber. Therefore, the inclusion of doubles specialist Alicja Rosolska could be a smart move.
Russia is also a strong threat. Daria Kasatkina and an in-form Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will be tough opponents. However, Kasatkina has gone off the boil this year and the Poland vs Russia match may go down to the doubles wire, which gives Poland a slight edge.
Either Poland or Russia would be a tough play-off match-up for Britain, who will need to be on their guard. Should they make it through the group, of course.
Heather Watson or Katie Boulter? That is the singles question
Even though her form has been patchy, to say the least, Konta is almost certain to be involved in singles action. However, the issue of who will be her counterpart in the singles is still a moot point. No one can doubt world #110 Heather Watson’s commitment to the Fed Cup. Watson has been a mainstay in the side since making her debut in 2011. However, 2018 was a season to forget for Watson.
A 28-10 record in the competition makes Watson difficult to leave out, but World #88 Katie Boulter is the new British #2. It’s a tough call and will be a key factor in the closer matches. Conjecture only, but perhaps Boulter will be given the chance in the first match against Slovenia. Then the experience of Watson may be preferred. Neither player is in blistering form. Boulter managed to lose twice in St. Petersberg last week, but could well be galvanized by a feisty home crowd.