Great Britain’s Fed Cup captain Judy Murray is happy with the cards her side have been dealt ahead of the British team’s trip to Israel for the upcoming Europe/Africa Zone Group I event.
The British team will contest Pool B against Portugal, Hungary and Bosnia/Herzegovina at the Municipal Tennis Club in Eilat on 9-10 February having avoided several danger teams, notably Belarus, Poland and Romania.
“It would be very difficult to come up against a team that has a very strong No. 1,” said Murray. “Poland have got [Agnieszka] Radwanksa who is Top 5 and Belarus may have [Victoria] Azarenka, obviously the best player in the world. Romania is also a very solid team; they probably have about four girls who are ranked inside the Top 50. I think you could probably say that I was quite happy to have avoided all three of them!”
Murray captained Great Britain to victories over Portugal, Netherlands, Israel and Austria last year, putting them on the brink of a place in World Group II before the team narrowly fell short with a 4-1 defeat to Sweden in the play-offs. Buoyed by their efforts last year, Murray insists her side will give promotion another good go in 2013.
“For me last year was obviously the first year of being involved with Fed Cup and it was a great experience,” said Murray. “We’re going back to the same venue in Eilat so we know what to expect in terms of the court surface and so forth and the organisation of the event.
“We’ve collected a lot of footage of the opponents that we’ve been drawn against and we’ll get those analysed so that we can form our battle plans. I’ve been out having a look at all of the players for the last three or four weeks. We’ll go over [to Eilat] very much aiming to get out of that zone again and into another World Group play-off.”
Great Britain will make just one change to the line-up from last year with Elena Baltacha, who underwent foot surgery at the end of last season, only travelling to Eilat in a supporting role.
“Bally played a huge part in the success of the British team last year,” said Murray. “She’s an outstanding No. 1 for us but she’s gone through a foot surgery and she’s not quite ready to be back competing yet. She’s going to come along with us as a squad member and support everybody which will be great for her because she’s been away from the game for a few months.”
Baltacha will be replaced by Sydney-born 21-year old Johanna Konta, who was granted British citizenship in June last year.
“It’s a new one for us but she’s playing very well,” said Murray. “She played extremely well in qualifying out in Australia and has improved her ranking significantly over the last 12 months. We’re really looking forward to having her in the team.
“Anne Keothavong will be there as well. She’s got years and years of Fed Cup experience. She’s a great pro and a great team member.”
Murray’s trump cards come in the form of No. 1 Heather Watson and No. 2 Laura Robson, who have enjoyed rapid ranking rises of their own over the last 12 months. Watson won her first Tour-level title in Osaka in October shortly after Robson achieved her career-best Grand Slam result by reaching the fourth round at the US Open.
“This time last year they were our No. 3 and No. 4 so it’s a bit of a changing-of-the-guard moment I think,” said Murray. “Both of them have improved so much in the last 12 months, it’s been great to see. I’m really looking forward to watching them leading the team this year.
“I think they learned a lot from watching how Elena and Anne approached the Fed Cup last year in terms of their professionalism, their team spirit, their fighting qualities and so forth and I’m sure they will have picked up a lot from their example.”