WASHINGTON, February 11, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts in Heroes’ Square provided a festive setting for a historic new chapter of Fed Cup tennis that was written Tuesday evening. With ITF President David Haggerty and Fed Cup Global Ambassador Billie Jean King in attendance, joined on stage by eight Hungarian junior players who participated in selecting balls representing each nation from the Fed Cup trophy, the official draw to complete the inaugural Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals was unveiled.
The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals will take place April 14-19 on indoor clay at the Laszlo Papp Arena in Budapest.
Defending champion France were drawn with Russia and host and automatic qualifier Hungary in Group A. Last year’s finalist Australia heads Group B joined by Belarus and Belgium. Eighteen-time Fed Cup champion United States is atop Group C, which includes Spain and Slovakia. Finally, Czech Republic, which has won 11 Fed Cup titles and received a wild card berth in Budapest, will take on Germany and Switzerland in Group D.
Hungary’s team captain Gabor Juhasz, who was interviewed during the online broadcast of the Fed Cup Finals draw, calls Budapest “one of the most beautiful cities in the world.” He said, “We are happy to host. We’re in an amazing group.”
While there is no kiss of death group, per se, Group B, which could feature World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, No. 13 Aryna Sabelenka and No. 19 Elise Mertens, on paper looks intriguing. Meanwhile, Group D might include No. 5 Belinda Bencic, No. 11 Petra Kvitova and No. 20 Angelique Kerber, also a very tough group.
Throughout, each tie will consist of two singles rubbers followed by a doubles rubber.
France, Australia, the United States and Czech Republic were pre-assigned to the top of the four groups. Then, the fifth through eighth seeds – Belarus, Germany, Russia and Spain – were drawn into separate groups. Finally, the nations ranked ninth through 12th – Slovakia, Switzerland, Belgium and Hungary – were placed to complete the draw.
The exact matchups and full schedule will be revealed on Monday.
Belgium’s team captain, Johan Van Herck, called his team’s 3-1 Qualifiers triumph over Kazakhstan last weekend, which included two win by Mertens, “an amazing journey.” Looking at how the draw fared for his team, Van Herck said, “All groups are tough. We will prepare well and see. Everything is possible. We’ll be ready.”
The four group winners will advance to the semifinals with the Group A winner facing the winner of Group C and the Group B and Group D winners playing in the other semifinal. The semifinal winners will advance to the championship tie.
#FedCupFinals group draw:
— Fed Cup Finals (@FedCupFinals) February 11, 2020
Fed Cup Playoffs draw revealed
Sixteen teams, including two to be determined, were selected for the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Playoffs that will be contested April 17-18 at various sites across South America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
The eight playoff matchups include: Brazil at Poland, Great Britain at Mexico, Canada at Serbia, Asia/Ocean team TBC at Latvia, Ukraine at Japan, Italy at Romania, Kazakhstan at Argentina, Asia/Oceania TBC at Netherlands.
Potentially, the most interesting singles showdown would pair World No. 4 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine against World No. 10 Naomi Osaka of Japan – provided both decide to compete for their respective nations.
The eight winning nations will play in next year’s Fed Cup Qualifiers while the eight losers will compete in their respective regional Group I event in 2020.
When the draw took place Tuesday, two berths were set aside – listed as TBC – for the nations advancing from Asia/Oceania Group I, which will be played in Dubai March 3-7.
The Fed Cup committee determined that the two Qualifier nations – Latvia and Netherlands – drawn against the teams from Asia/Oceania Group I will be guaranteed choice of ground to enable preparations for these ties to begin immediately.