Fed Cup: GB face Belgium for play-off spot

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By Ros Satar

  • Katie Swan and Heather Watson secure the win over Georgia with singles victories
  • Injury concerns for Jocelyn Rae ahead of crucial Pool winners clash on Saturday
  • Victory over Belgium will put GB in a World Group II play-off tie for the first time since 2013

EILAT, ISRAEL – Katie Swan continued her dream Fed Cup debut with a second win, to set GB on a course to topping their Pool, and ironically a clash against Belgium for further Fed Cup glory.

Swan, who stepped in as a singles choice for Johanna Konta, who had to withdraw with illness following her great run to the Australian Open semi-final, got GB off to a winning start once more, again defeating a higher ranked opponent in Ekaterina Gorgodze (WR 327), coming back after an immediate break and saving break points on the way to sealing the first set.

The momentum stayed with the teenager as she leapt out to a 4-1 lead and held her nerve after the Georgian clawed her way back into the match, to edge her opponent out for a 6-3 6-3 win.

She told the LTA: “There were a lot of close games but I was fighting the whole time and managed to get through a lot of them. The support really helped me. I was motivated and got pretty pumped!”

British No. 2 Heather Watson split the first four games with Sofia Shapatava before going off at a sprint, spinning 10 games on the bounce to roar to a 6-2 6-0 win and putting GB at the top of the pool.

She told the LTA: “I felt like I read her game well even when she was hitting very hard. After the first couple of games I loosened up and started playing really good tennis.

“I am really happy with the way I improved on the things I didn’t do well yesterday.”

Jocelyn Rae and Anna Smith put up a good fight but Georgia at least reclaimed one match, defeating the doubles specialists 6-2 6-4.

Of course we all remember what happened the last time the Belgians came up against an Aegon GB side, but before we count our chickens, the Belgian team outrank all the Brits across the board, so a victory here will be a tough ask.

Belgium topped their group without conceding any sets. The countries have faced each other five times in their Fed Cup history and although GB lead Belgium 4-1, the Belgians won their latest encounter in 1994 in the Group I (Europe/Africa) quarter-final.

Swan is most likely to face Ysaline Bonaventure (WR 160) with the Belgian No. 1 player Alison Van Uytvanck (WR 43) to face Watson. While there is the element of surprise when it comes to Swan, with many of her opponents here facing her for the first time, Van Uytvanck will also face the Brit, who fell to No. 85 in the world at the start of the year, for the first time.

Watson has benefited from time with Judy Murray after splitting with her coach Diego Veronelli at the end of last season, and had a real heartbreaker of a first round exit at the Australian Open, admitting she had struggled with an abdominal injury sustained during the Hopman Cup in Perth, where she partnered Andy Murray.

With the worry of a potential back injury for Jocelyn Rae, the Brits face a real battle on Saturday, but Murray is still optimistic, telling the LTA:

“Katie got us off to a really good start. Heather then followed this up with a very impressive performance. She was livelier than yesterday, really moving well and showing how well she can play.

“In the doubles Joss Rae has a bit of a back injury which is a bit of a worry for tomorrow but we went through 2-1.

“There is a lot at stake tomorrow as they have a strong team, stronger than us on paper, but the rankings go out the window when you play for your country. Fingers crossed!”

The final Fed Cup pool matches will take place on Saturday with the winners gaining a spot in the World Group II play-offs in April.