World No. 3 Simona Halep, No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 10 Kiki Bertens headline the nominations for the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Play-offs on 16-17 April, according to BoxScoreNews.com.
The trio are the star names across the 16 teams that will do battle in eight ties – seven in Europe and one in Argentina – next week in a bid to secure their place in the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers in 2022.
It’s a milestone weekend for the competition – the first since it was re-branded last September to become the first major global team event to be named after a woman – and there is plenty of anticipation for the new era to begin.
‘It is an honour to represent our country in a competition named after a true pioneer not just for women’s tennis, but women in general,’ said Canada captain Heidi El Tabakh, summing up the feelings of many set to take part.
Romania are also entering a new era, with player-captain Monica Niculescu set to become the 12th female to head up a nation competing at play-off level or above when she takes the reins against Italy in Cluj-Napoca.
And Niculescu will hope Halep, Romania’s leading woman on the court, can extend her eight-match winning streak in singles matches for her country.
Halep has not lost a singles match in the Billie Jean King Cup since 2016, when she fell to Germany’s Angelique Kerber, and she’ll be determined to continue that form against the Italians.
Niculescu, who would likely compete in doubles if required, has also named Patricia Maria Tig, Irina Maria Bara and Mihaela Buzarnescu for the tie, while Italy will be led by world No. 99 Martina Trevisan and supported by Jasmine Paolini, Elisabetta Cocciaretto, Giula Laura Gatto Monticone and Bianca Turati.
Svitolina, meanwhile, is set to play her first Billie Jean King Cup tie on home soil since 2017 when she anchors a strong Ukrainian side against Japan in Chornomorsk.
The 26-year-old, who will be joined by Marta Kostyuk, Katarina Zavatska, and Nadiia and Lyudmyla Kichenok, has a 12-10 record from 16 ties since making her debut in 2012, and will be heavily favoured to further improve that record against inexperienced opponents.
Japan’s team to travel to Ukraine features four Billie Jean King Cup debutants, headlined by rising star Yuki Naito.
Naito, 20, climbed to a career-high ranking of No. 169 at the end of March after winning her sixth professional singles title at W25 Buenos Aires, and admitted her pride at being picked to lead the team alongside Chihiro Muramatsu, Shiho Akita and Himari Sato.
‘I am honoured to have been selected as a member of the Billie Jean King Cup for the first time,’ she said. ‘I will do my best to contribute to the Japan national team. Thank you to all the fans who have always supported me.’
Paul Haarhuis’ Dutch team will again call on the experience of Bertens when they take on China, P.R. in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Since making her debut in the competition a decade ago, Bertens has established herself as one of the leading Billie Jean King Cup players of her generation, winning 20 of the 22 singles matches she has played while representing her nation.
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