British team win as Aussies and Americans prepare for cup battle
Katie Boulter and Johanna Konta found form to help Great Britain see off Slovenia in their first home Fed Cup tie since 1993 as Australia prepared for their own battle, against the USA in North Carolina this weekend.
Boulter, playing her first Fed Cup singles match, beat Kaja Juvan 6-4 6-2 in the opening match and then British No.1 Konta saw off Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 to win the tie.
Harriet Dart and Katie Swan were then able to enjoy the pressure-free doubles rubber, knowing the result did not matter.
Across the Atlantic, the US will rely on a youth-based squad of Madison Keys, Danielle Collins, Sonya Kenin and Nicole Melichar in their clash with the Aussies.
No Serena or Venus Williams for this tie.
The Australians are also pretty young, with the oldest member 24-year-old world No.47 Daria Gavrilova.
“They’re a very tough team,” US team captain Kathy Rinaldi said.
“They have Ash Barty, who is one of the top singles and doubles players in the world.”
Rinaldi and Australian skipper Alicia Molik will announce their singles and doubles players on Friday for the tie in Asheville.
Both teams are on highs with players coming off a successful Australian Open series.
Open semi-finalist Danielle Collins, Sonya Kenin and doubles specialist Nicole Melichar.
For Australia, Barty is the big gun, currently ranked No.13 in the world in singles and ranked sixth in doubles.
Kim Birrell reached the third round of the Australian Open and Astra Sharma made the second round, so neither will be easy-beats.
“Confidence is something that I don’t think you can buy,” a smiling Molik said. “Our players have earned it.”
Back in Britain, Boulter said she was pleased to get an early win on the board.
“I was a little nervous, everybody would feel like that in my position, but I had a great team around me to put me in the right place mentally,” she said.
“I like to think I am someone who rises to the occasion. I didn’t mind (playing first) too much, there’s a lot of pressure to start off but I thought I did well to start and get a win for the team.”
Britain are in a group with Greece and Hungary, while Croatia, Turkey, Serbia and Georgia are in the other pool.
Croatia got their campaign off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over Turkey, while Serbia beat Georgia by the same scoreline.
The winners of each group will play each other to determine who advances to the playoffs in April.