2021 Billie Jean King Cup preview: Group A
AFTER completing our team-by-team previews ahead of the Billie Jean King Cup, Draft Central now focuses the attention on the Group-by-Group previews. Over the next four days we will run through the four groups and who is anticipated to progress, the stars, and the ones to watch in each of the groups.
France vs. Canada | Nov 1
Russia vs. Canada | Nov 2
France vs. Russia | Nov 3
There is little doubt this is a two-team race. In what was looming as an exciting group to begin with, the fact Canada will not only be without Grand Slam winner Bianca Andreescu but also US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez means they are effectively relying on all players outside the Top 150. With every one of the French and Russian players inside the Top 100, it would take a mammoth effort for Canada to cause an upset. The one saving grace for the North American nation is the doubles, where they have the seventh ranked Gabriela Dabrowski.
With Canada unlikely to win a singles tie, it all comes down to the November 3 clash between France and Russia, and despite being world number ones, the French look incredibly vulnerable. No Kristina Mladenovic who lead them to their 2019 title with an upset win over Ash Barty means a lot will fall on the shoulders of Caroline Garcia, whose performance against Barty in that tournament (a 6-0 6-0 shellacking) is better forgotten than remembered. She redeemed herself in the second singles, but nonetheless, France is up against it in this contest, with all five Russians ranked higher in the singles chart. It will be exciting to see Clara Burel get a crack in a singles game if she can breakthrough after a promising year.
Russia has not held back, with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova leading the way as the 13th ranked player and easily the top one in the group. But with weaker opponents in the group stage, the Europeans can also afford to allow their “lower ranked” singles players a go, with the 42nd ranked Liudmila Samsonova still higher ranked than any Canadian or French player. Being the youngest in the team, it is an exciting time for Russia with a couple of 24-year-olds as well. Expect the team to be favourites and should topple the world number ones, and certainly Canada in this contest.
TIP: Russia to advance to the semi-finals
PLAYER TO WATCH: Clara Burel (France)
Picture credit: AAP/PA Images