Fed Cup: Latvia tough opposition for GB next

 

By Jake Davies

  • Great Britain take on Latvia in their second group match in Group I
  • Heather Watson starts in the opening singles rubber against Diana Marcinkevica
  • Johanna Konta looks to get by Latvia’s No.1 player Jelena Ostapenko
TALLINN, ESTONIA – After a great start by the British team in their opening pool matches against Portugal, they face a lot tougher opposition in Latvia

 

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There is enough reason to be optimistic for the future of British tennis on the Women’s side, especially following the meteoric rise to the Top 10 of Women’s tennis from Johanna Konta. In years gone by it has looked like Great Britain may never get out of the Fed Cup Group I, but the change in form and momentum of Konta will improve our chances considerably.

The Great Britain team has a new face as the Fed Cup captain as Anne Keothavong takes over from Judy Murray. The great thinking behind the addition of Keothavong as the new captain is that she already knows Konta, Watson, Laura Robson and Jocelyn Rae from her experiences on tour, so in hindsight, her appointment should be a very good one at that.

If Great Britain manage to top Group C, which also features Latvia, Portugal, Turkey, they would then play a match against the winner of Group B, with the winner of that tie going on to the World Group II Playoff match. That is exactly where Great Britain need to be, playing against the great tennis nations and with Konta on side it could be a very exciting and successful time for our female players.

 

Heather Watson vs Diana Marcinkevica H2H: First meeting

Heather Watson is billed to face Latvia’s Diana Marcinkevica in the first singles match of the tie. Marcinkevica is a very inexperienced player, who has found most of her success in the $10,000 events on the ITF circuit, which is a long way away from the experience of the two British singles players this week. The Latvian’s best year came in 2014, where her ranking was high enough to enter the 2014 Grand Slam events in qualifying, but Marcinkevica is still yet to claim a victory at Grand Slam level.

Watson is the favourite on paper, but she will have to be wary of the euphoria of Fed Cup that really can bring the best out of some players. Her opponent may not have the experience at WTA level, but she has played 24 ties for her country dating back to 2009.

Prediction: Watson in three sets

 

Johanna Konta vs Jelena Ostapenko H2H: First meeting

In the battle of both countries No.1 players, Johanna Konta faces Jelena Ostapenko in the second singles rubber. The Latvian is one of the rare players that has made a brilliant transition from being one of the best juniors in the world to becoming a remarkably good WTA player. She made a lot of noise in the early stages of her career when she won the 2014 Wimbledon Juniors title. Exactly a year later she claimed a first Top 10 win over ninth seed Carla Suàrez Navarro in her Grand Slam debut, so there is plenty of reasons why many have held the Latvian highly for a number of years now.

The preparation to her forehand stroke is not the cleanest and is the weaker of her wings. The backhand is much cleaner on contact and causes havoc for her opponents because of the pace she can generate from that side.

With Ostapenko, you are looking at a player that really does get under the skin of her opponents and she also already has the benefit of big match experience even at the age of 19. She made a Premier 5 tournament final last year and only just narrowly lost out to Suàrez Navarro in that final.

Konta comes into this match as the favourite without a doubt. Her inclusion and availability to the side in 2017 can only mean good things. Having a Top 10 player in attendance should lift the other players in the team and encourage the players around Konta to achieve what she is achieving. An easy comparison to make is the effect that Grand-Slam-winning Murray had on the younger players in the Davis Cup team. He has helped tremendously to, not just the likes of Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans, but also supporting James Ward, who emerged as one of the great stories in Davis Cup history.

Konta will not only help on the court, but I think her meticulous preparation could rub off on Watson and Robson, which will be exciting to see.

Ostapenko’s second serve is very weak. It is the achilles heel of her whole game. Konta has also been working tirelessly on improving her return of serve under the guidance of new coach Wim Fissette, who actually worked with Ostapenko on a trial basis in the WTA event in Linz last year, so he will know a lot about this vulnerability.

En route to her Sydney title win, Konta was firing return winners at will against Agniezska Radwanska in the one-sided final and I was expect a similar story in this match-up.

Prediction: Konta in straight sets

 

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