The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas season gets under way on Wednesday, with the Zone Group I nations beginning their campaigns to reach April’s World Group II play-offs.
Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki leads the field at the Europe/Africa event in Israel, as the world No. 1 starts her seventh year in the competition.
“In Fed Cup you play for your country,” said Wozniacki, speaking during her run to the Australian Open semifinals last week. “It’s always nice and it’s something I’m looking forward to.
“The other girls [in the Danish side] are young and upcoming, so they have absolutely no pressure. There are a lot of good teams out there. Hopefully they can go out there and play freely and just enjoy themselves.
“I’m just trying to be a good role model for the young ones. I know that they’re looking up to me, looking at what I’m doing, so I’m trying to set a good example.”
Denmark has been drawn in Pool A alongside Switzerland and Great Britain, who face each other in the opening round robin tie on Wednesday.
The British team is expected to include Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong in the singles line-up, while the Swiss will likely call on the services of Patty Schnyder and Timea Bacsinszky.
“Practice has been going really well and hopefully I can take that form onto court for my first match,” said Baltacha. “I've never played Patty Schnyder before, but she's very experienced and it'll be a tough match. I'm very excited though and I can't wait.”
Three more Pools are being contested at the Municipal Tennis Club in Eilat. Other Top 20 players to look out for are Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka and Israel’s Shahar Peer, who will be the big attraction for the home fans.
The Asia/Oceania event in Thailand has been blown wide open by the news that Na Li isn’t fit to take her place in the Chinese team, following her runner-up finish at the Australian Open.
“Our team weakens very much after Na Li, who just runner-up the Australian Open, cannot come to Thailand because of the injury that she has in her right leg,” said Chinese captain Zhong Fu. “The other factor is fatigue since she played for seven matches at the Australian Open.”
Li’s absence leaves the door ajar for Uzbekistan, India and Thailand in Pool A, although both the Indian and Thai teams have injury concerns of their own.
Sania Mirza of India is battling to shake off a hamstring problem and Thailand’s No. 1 player, home favourite Tamarine Tanasugarn, is desperate not to let an ongoing elbow injury affect her performance.
“I’ve had the symptoms in my right elbow since last year,” said Tanasugarn. “Still can't be permanently cured, but surely I will be competing in this tournament and fully fight because Thailand now is likely have a chance to get back to the World Group II play-offs again.”
Pool B is headed up by Japan, led by world No. 58 Ayumi Morita, with Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan and Korea, Rep providing the challenge. The Asia/Oceania Zone Group II event is also taking place simultaneously at the National Tennis Centre in Nonthaburi, near Bangkok.
The draw for the Americas event in Argentina, being held at the Tenis Club Argentino in Buenos Aires, only took place on Tuesday. Pool A sees hosts Argentina together with Paraguay, Peru and Bolivia, while Pool B has pitted Colombia, Brazil, Chile and Mexico against each other.
The round-robin fixtures at all three Zone Group I events are being played from Wednesday to Friday, and then the subsequent promotion and relegation ties take place on Saturday.
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