Gold stars head to Prague for Billie Jean King Cup Finals

03/10/2021 17:00

Belinda Bencic, Barbora Krejcikova, Katerina Siniakova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova among the leading nominations for the inaugural Billie Jean King Cup Finals

Gold stars head to Prague for Billie Jean King Cup Finals

Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medallists Belinda Bencic, Barbora Krejcikova, Katerina Siniakova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will once again chase glory for their nations at the inaugural Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Finals as nominations from the 12 teams heading to Prague were announced on Monday.

The 57-player field features three current members of the world’s WTA top 10, three former world No. 1s and five Grand Slam singles champions, all vying to lead their team to victory at the O2 Arena in Prague from November 1-6.

Hosts Czech Republic have named women’s doubles Olympic champions Krejcikova and Siniakova alongside Marketa Vondrousova – who won singles silver in Tokyo – as well as debutant Tereza Martincova and former Billie Jean King Cup champion Lucie Hradecka.

The Czechs will be joined by Switzerland and Germany in Group D, a blockbuster trio of nations that could produce rematches of both the women’s singles and doubles Olympic finals. Bencic defeated Vondrousova to win singles gold for Switzerland before she and Viktorija Golubic claimed silver in the doubles.

The Swiss duo are joined by Jil Teichmann and Stefanie Voegele, while Germany’s squad blends youth and experience as former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic and Anna-Lena Friedsam are joined by Jule Niemeier and Nastasja Schunk, the youngest nominee for the Finals.

France’s squad features three of the players who claimed the 2019 title with victory over Australia in Perth as Caroline Garcia, Alize Cornet and Fiona Ferro return for the defending champions, captained by Julien Benneteau. They are joined by former junior world No. 1 Clara Burel, while Kristina Mladenovic – who produced a star turn in the 2019 final – has called time on her 2021 season.

The French face a stern examination in Group A, with both Canada and Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) boasting two of the season’s Grand Slam finalists. The Canadians will once again be led by Leylah Fernandez in Prague, little over a month after her spellbinding run to the US Open final, and captained by Sylvain Bruneau, who steps in for Heidi El Tabakh as she misses the Finals for personal reasons.

Joining Fernandez are Rebecca Marino, Francoise Abanda and Gabriela Dabrowski, while Igor Andreev’s RTF side features five top-50 players led by Roland Garros finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The Olympic mixed doubles champion will be joined by Daria Kasatkina, Veronika Kudermetova, Ekaterina Alexandrova and competition debutant Liudmila Samsonova.

Ajla Tomljanovic, another veteran of the 2019 final, will lead Australia’s bid to top Group C and reach the semi-finals, with Alicia Molik calling up Astra Sharma and Storm Sanders and handing debuts to Ellen Perez and Olivia Gadecki to complete the five-strong green and gold side.

Joining Australia are a formidable Belarus squad anchored by former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, with Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Olga Govortsova and Lidziya Marozava also in Tatiana Poutchek’s side along with new face Yuliya Hatouka. Belgium also arrive with firepower, with Elise Mertens, Alison Van Uytvanck, Greet Minnen, Maryna Zanevska and Kirsten Flipkens named by Johan Van Herck.

Garbine Muguruza is the leading light in a strong Spanish squad in Group C that features Paula Badosa, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Nuria Parrizas-Diaz and a final appearance from Carla Suarez Navarro, playing the last professional event of her career in Prague.

USA are the group’s top seeds, with captain Kathy Rinaldi turning to Jessica Pegula, Danielle Collins, Sloane Stephens, CoCo Vandeweghe and Caroline Dolehide, while Slovakia will be led by Anna Karolina Schmiedlova as Kristina Kucova, Viktoria Kuzmova, Rebecca Sramkova and Tereza Mihalikova round out Matej Liptak’s squad. 

The Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas 2021 Finals will be held at the O2 Arena in Prague from November 1-6 2021. The winners of each group will advance to the semi-finals for the chance to reach Saturday's final, where the Billie Jean King Cup champions will be crowned.