Aussies receive favourable BJK Cup qualifier

FRESH off failing to make the semi-finals after coming runner-up the year before, Australia has been handed a favourable Billie Jean King (BJK) Cup qualifying tie for 2024. The world number twos – behind only reigning champions Canada – were seeded one heading into the 2024 BJK Cup Qualifying draw last night – and drew Mexico in the ballot.

The 19th ranked Mexicans were the second lowest to Japan in the draw, and will be the lowest ranked visiting team with Australia also drawn the choice of ground. That means for the April 12-13 tie, the contest will be held Down Under. The winner of the tie will head to the BJK Cup Finals in November, while the loser will face a winner from the Group I playoffs to return to the qualifiers.

Australia defeated Kazakhstan 2-1 but lost to Slovenia 2-1 in the group stage of the BJK Cup Finals this year, and while all three sides sat at 1-1 and 3-3 in terms of ties won and matches won respective, Slovenia advanced to the semi-finals. There, Slovenia lost to Italy who went down to Canada in the final.

The two finalists, along with Czech Republic were made automatic entries into the 2024 BJK Cup Finals. Spain was the fourth nation to book its automatic entry in next year’s Finals, as Seville will play host to the tournament for a second straight year. Spain finished second in its 2023 group behind eventual winners Canada.

Mexico stamped its ticket for the 2024 qualifiers with a 3-2 win over Austria in the play-offs after going down to Spain 3-1 earlier this year. Fernanda Contreas was the star, winning both her singles matches, and then teaming up with Giuliana Olmos – who had lost both her singles matches – in the doubles to win 8-6 in a dramatic third set deciding tiebreaker.

The step up in quality from Austria to Australia will be vast however, with the 362nd ranked Contreras and 1159th ranked Olmos given little chance to knock off the Australians, especially on home soil. In 2023, the green and gold turned to the likes of Kimberly Birrell and Storm Hunter – both ranked inside the top 200 – and Ajla Tomljanovic who is a former top 30 player.

In other matches, third ranked Switzerland takes on world number one Iga Swiatek‘s Poland, while top five nation France will play host to Great Britain in a potential blockbuster. The United States will host Belgium, with Slovakia the other seeded team to play host, with a contest against Slovenia.

In the remaining three ties, the unseeded team will pick the courts. Japan faces Kazakhstan in a 20th against ninth contest, while 16th ranked Brazil takes on 10th ranked Germany. In the more complicated fixture, Ukraine again drew a home court advantage against world number 12 Romania, but fgiven the ongoing conflict in the nation, the BJK Cup organisers will work with Ukraine to find a suitable venue.

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