2023 BJK Cup Finals preview: Swiss eye back-to-back titles
SWITZERLAND returns to the Billie Jean King Cup Finals determined to go back-to-back after defeating Australia in the decider last year. Twelve months on, and the four players that tasted that success return with top seeded Belinda Bencic alongside Jil Teichmann, while doubles pairing Viktorija Golubic and Simona Waltert are also back.
This year, the Swiss have added 18-year-old talent Celine Naef to the roster as back-up in what should be a great learning experience for the world number 137. The world number ones will be tournament favourites at the event given the success of the past, while Australia will have greater struggles to retain the second spot and reach the final again.
Australia will be lead once again by Ajla Tomljanovic, while Daria Saville, Kimberly Birrell and Ellen Perez are donning the green and gold with one of last year’s heroes, Storm Hunter. Though Australia will be minus Hunter for at least the first match which leaves them vulnerable against Slovenia.
GROUP A PREVIEW
- Czech Republic
Switzerland is the favourite at the tournament, but has drawn a tough duo in its group. The Americans are close to full strength with Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins, Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and US Open winner Sloane Stephens all set to play. The trio are rarely in form at the same time, but always a danger.
Similarly, Czech Republic has Grand Slam champion Barbora Krejcikova and Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova are the top stars, though the much improved Linda Noskova may get her chance. Marie Bouzkova and doubles specialist Katerina Siniakova round out a strong team.
GROUP B PREVIEW
Though Australia is the world number two, it will be the underdog against Kazakhstan who is going just about full strength for singles. Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and Yulia Putintseva are top shelf doubles players, and while the doubles pairing is not as strong, will be looking to win both singles matches.
Slovenia on the other hand has Tamara Zidansek and Kaja Juvan, who while they might not be at the top of the world rankings, can produce some strong performances and cause upsets. The group boasts three of the weakest nations on paper though, with the winner unlikely to advance past the semi-final stage.
GROUP C PREVIEW
Spain will start as favourites in Group C with Canada its only major threat given Poland is missing world number one Iga Swiatek who has spent the week at the WTA Finals. Spain will have impressive duo Paula Badosa and Sara Sorribes Tormo, while Rebeka Masarova and Cristina Bucsa are both handy players.
Canada will rely on Leylah Fernandez to find her best form if the North American nation is to advance, with no Bianca Andreescu, and instead the wildly inconsistent Eugenie Bouchard, and Rebecca Marino. The nation is still likely to have Poland covered though with Magda Linette stepping up to the number one singles position, backed up by Magdalena Frech at the two.
GROUP D PREVIEW
France is like the sleeping giant that may not have players in peak form, but cannot be disregarded as a genuine chance. The French have the strongest team on paper, and after being a shock omission from the Finals last year and losing their number one ranking, they return with experienced trio Caroline Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic and Alize Cornet who upset Australia a couple of years back. Former Russian Varvara Gracheva is also representing France for the first time in a team event.
Italy has an even side without a particular standout. Jasmine Paolini is the most dangerous player, while Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Martina Trevisan can do some damage. Germany will bring the likes of Laura Siegemund, Anna-Lena Friedsam and Jule Niemeier who are all very experienced, alongside Tatjana Maria.
Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Spain and France to make it out of the group stages and advance to the semi-finals. Given the scheduling, Swizerland would be set to play Spain and Kazakhstan up against France, with the Swiss and French the tips in the final four. In the decider it could go either way, but the consistency of the Swiss singles should see them go back-to-back, but could go down to the third match.