Great Britain get good draw in Fed Cup play-off

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Great Britain were desperate to get a home tie for the first time since 1993 when the draw was made for the Fed Cup World Group II play-off, but they should be happy with an away tie against Japan.

Johanna Konta, Britain’s number one player, is ranked 40 places higher than Japan’s best player, World No.51 Naomi Osaka, and Heather Watson is ranked 16 places than Nao Hibino (World No.90).

That should mean that Konta will beat Osaka and Hibino, and Watson will beat Hibino, which would be enough to earn Britain the 3 points needed to win the tie.

However, nothing is ever certain in sport and Konta will probably need to be close to her best to beat rising star Osaka. If she were to lose, Britain would probably have to win the doubles to be victorious in the tie. Alternatively, Watson would need to beat Osaka – a feat which is definitely not beyond her.

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Whichever way the tie, scheduled for 21 and 22 April, pans out, it is a far more favourable draw than Britain were lumbered with in last year’s play-off when they had to travel to Romania to play their hosts on clay.

Although Britain fought hard and won two points, the class of current World No.2 Simona Halep shone through as she beat both Konta and Watson in straight sets on her favourite surface. Irena-Camelia Begu then beat Watson 6-4 7-5 to seal a 3-2 victory for Romania.

Great Britain earned their place in the 2018 World Group II play-off by notching up three comfortable wins in Europe/Africa Group I last week. They beat both Portugal and Estonia 3-0 in their Group B matches in the round-robin stage and then beat Hungary 2-0 in the resulting play-off between the winners of Groups B and C.

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Konta won all three of her singles matches and her 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-2 win over Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit – one of 2017’s breakthrough talents – was particularly pleasing to see. Watson also went undefeated in her three singles clashes and only dropped a set against Hungary’s Dalma Galfi. To add to the encouraging picture, Anna Smith and Katie Boulter won both their doubles encounters and lost just four games in the process.

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