2021 Billie Jean King Cup nation preview: Russia
THE WTA Tour’s most prestigious team event is less than a month away, and Draft Central is counting down the days until it kicks off by previewing each team individually. Starting with the lowest ranked nation through to the highest one, we take a look at each squad, their fixtures, and what they might be able to achieve at the event.
Captain: Igor Andreev
vs. Canada | November 2
vs. France | November 3
Perhaps one of the serious dark horses in the tournament, Russia has the ability to overcome top ranked France, and really force the reigning champs on the back foot in the tournament. A star-studded lineup that is full strength and more impressively, capable of playing both formats of singles and doubles, the Russians will be tricky to beat, and never fully out of the contest. With the announcement that Leylah Fernandez will miss the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, it stamped Canada’s papers as the last side in the group, and with fairness to the North American nation, they would be likely to take a match off either Russia or France.
That means that the winner of France and Russia will advance through to the semi-finals, and be a real shot at taking out the title. The 13th ranked Pavlyuchenkova comes in as the number one singles player for the nation and the top ranked player in her group. Only three players – Barbora Krejcikova, Garbine Muguruza and Belinda Bencic – are ranked higher in the tournament, so Pavlyuchenova should look to take full advantage in her singles. With basically nothing between the 30th ranked Kasatkina, 31st ranked Kudermetova and 34th ranked Alexandrova, the depth in the Russian camp is sensational, and captain Andreev can really pick and choose who plays who based on not only form, but the opponent in question. Given Samsonova is the lowest singles player at 42, it is easy to see why Russia would be one of the favourites for the tournament.
Overall, Russia will face its only stiff opposition in Group A from France, with Caroline Garcia and Alize Cornet, but both are ranked 59th and 64th having slid down the rankings in recent times. That means on paper, the lowest ranked Russian is ranked higher than the highest ranked Frenchwoman. Without Kristina Mladenovic in the doubles, it also evens out the third tie if France causes a singles upset, with Kudermetova (21st) the top Russian doubles player, but all of whom are within the Top 100 and capable of stepping up in that format.
Prediction: 1st in Group A
Picture credit: WTA Tennis