The future Fed Cup Champions, Great Britain, continued their path to greatness this week after successfully navigating through the pool stage of Euro/Africa Group I with a comprehensive 3-0 victory before progressing through to the World Group II playoffs on Sunday.
OK, so touting Heather Watson, Laura Robson and co. as the future champions of this tournament may be a tad optimistic, but there is nevertheless real hope that these girls can restore some much-needed national pride in a tournament we have failed so miserably at over the years.
Having come so close to escaping the Euro/Africa Group I last year – the girls lost to Sweden in a final playoff – Team GB made sure they still mean business, cruising to victories over Bosnia Herzegovina, Portugal and Hungary in the pool, before a 2-0 result over Bulgaria secured a playoff place in April.
Up against Bosnia Herzegovina first on Thursday, Anne Keothavong got the ball rolling with a straight-sets victory in Israel before Watson and the pairing of Robson and Johanna Konta followed suit.
Friday’s clash with Portugal was slightly trickier, Watson lost her singles clash with Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-1 6-4 and appeared troubled by a shoulder injury throughout. It was the same pain that blighted her Australian Open efforts last month and thankfully was able to rely on Robson to see off Portugal 2-1.
Great Britain recorded the same result against Hungary on Saturday, and although Watson recovered from her injury to thump Timea Babos 6-3 6-2, when doubling up with Robson the pair faired poorly, losing 6-4 2-6 6-2 to Babos and Katalin Marosi.
And so into the playoffs, where Robson dispatched of Dia Evitmova 6-0 6-4 before Watson recovered from a terrible first set against Tsvetana Pironkova to win 1-6 6-4 6-2. The Brit lost seven games in a row against the former Wimbledon semi-finalist, but recovered in the second with her first break of serve before two love holds drew the tie level.
She then went on to win the next four games, and although Pironkova broke back Watson had enough in her tank to finish the job.
Not bad, eh? Judy Murray’s Team GB are into the next round of the Fed Cup and that’s all that matters at this stage. Both Watson and Robson are still learning their trade on the tour and Konta, still only 21, is another bright hope for the future.
One concern will be Watson’s shoulder injury. The Fed Cup, like it’s Davis Cup brother on the ATP, usually takes second priority under singles ambitions. If Watson feels this shoulder hurt isn’t going away she may pull out of the next round in April to aid her singles chances heading into the summer.
It’s not a nice call to make – and we at Three_Sets are by no means questioning Watson’s commitment – but sadly that is the reality of singles tennis that takes priority over the team game.
With the experience of Keothavong and Murray in the camp though, we are right to expect big things from GB this year and qualifying for the World Group II in 2014 is very much a possibility.
The team will reunite in April hoping to achieve a major landmark in British women’s tennis and make the World Group II – and although it’s too early to back Team GB for ultimate glory there will be real optimism in the camp they can go far over the next few years.