By Ros Satar, in Madrid
- Team GB fell short once more of reaching World Group II and next year will find themselves back in the Europe/Africa zone along with teams like Russia and Ukraine
- Johanna Konta believes not enough credit is given to the groups outside the elite Top 16
MADRID, SPAIN – Johanna Konta took to the European clay for the first time at the Mutua Madrid Open, having had to fly to Japan for the all-important Fed Cup World Group II Play-off.
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After Great Britain missed out once more on promotion to World Group II, sliding to a 3-2 defeat to Japan, the team’s trek out to Japan meant some adjustments to British No. 1 Johanna Konta’s clay court plans.
Her first steps in the gritty green clay in Charleston looked tentative to say the least but it might also be fair to say that her delayed start to the clay court season may pay dividends. On Sunday she won her first match at the Mutua Madrid Open, and sets up a clash with Bernarda Pera for the third time already this year.
As the arguments and discussions still rally around how David Cup and Fed Cup revisions will affect the tours in general, there was the simple matter of logistics to face up to as far as Konta’s season was concerned.
Talking to us after her first round victory, she said: “It was going to be almost an impossible task for me to go from Japan to Stuttgart. I knew that straight away when I committed to Fed Cup that my first clay court event after that would be here in Madrid. I had a good week of training at home, I also got to adjust back to the jetlag. It was a very bizarre experience heading that far east in April just in completely the wrong part of the year for us. It was a tough one for us out there but overall I think we all competed hard. I had two great matches and Japan is a great place to go.”
“For sure, the Fed Cup is a tricky one in that sense. I’d won both my matches but we’d lost the tie. It was bizarre experiencing a feeling of loss when I hadn’t lost a tie in the singles. Losing the doubles was quite a tough one for the whole team to take. I was incredibly proud of the whole team, myself included, I think we performed the best that we could and hopefully one day soon we can get a home tie.”
‘The Embarrassing cousin of the World Groups’
With all the recent focus of discussions on the team format often purely focussed on the Davis Cup, the Fed Cup in general is crying out for at least parity with the Davis Cup with at least a 16-team World group. However, the ITF still seems hell-bent on introducing a Fed Cup Final Four event.
Konta continued: I think unfortunately the way the format is of Fed Cup, outside of the World Group II, I don’t think enough credit is given to the difficulty of the zone playoff and the amount of matches we have to play in a week in succession. And also just acknowledging how difficult a zone we are in being in the Europe/Africa zone. As we know, a massive chunk of the tour is European so the depth in field is massively strong.
“It’s just a shame that it’s almost built up this … [lack of] credit and kind of acknowledgement of how strong of a competition it is. It’s almost been treated as… an embarrassing cousin of the World Groups (laughs).
“The fact that I think we’ve qualified out of that and out ourselves into a World Group II play-off four times out of the last seven years or something, I mean that’s an incredible effort, and like you said we keep knocking on that door, so sooner or later we are going to knock it down.”
GB will go again in the 2019 Europe/Africa Group stages in February 2019.
Main Image: Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for LTA
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