Six Top 10 players, including Serena Williams, Bianca Andreescu and newly crowned Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, are among a star-studded field set to take courts around the world this Friday and Saturday for the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Qualifiers.
The winners of the eight ties this weekend advance to the Fed Cup Finals, set to take place in Budapest from April 14 to 19. Four teams are already going to the 12-team finale: France, the 2019 champion, Australia, the 2019 runner-up, wild card Czech Republic and the host nation, Hungary.
One of the most intriguing Fed Cup Qualifier ties will see the United States take on Latvia, with Kenin—fresh off her first Grand Slam title—hoping to lead the Americans to victory in Everett, WA.
The U.S. is the only team in action sporting two Top 10 players in No. 7 Kenin and No. 9 Serena.
“I’ve watched Serena. I’ve been following her, all the Slams she’s been winning,” Kenin said after her triumph in Melbourne. “I can’t wait to compete and be on the same team with her in Fed Cup.”
The Latvian team is led by Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion and a former No. 5, as well as former US Open semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova, who’s been as high as No. 11.
“It’s going to be a tough match-up, but hopefully we have a chance to win,” Kenin told FedCup.com.
“I know the girls on the team, so we’ll see how it goes. The new [Fed Cup Finals] format, it’s exciting. Everyone in one place, it brings a lot of people there, and it’s going to be quite busy. There will be a lot of entertainment and a lot of fans, so hopefully we get there. It would be amazing to play there.”
The only tie that has Top 10 players on both sides will be Switzerland against Canada, with No. 5 Belinda Bencic leading the Swiss team and No. 6 Andreescu leading the Canadian team.
Andreescu, who won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open last year, had to miss the Australian Open due to a knee injury. The 19-year-old is scheduled to play her first matches of the season this week.
“She’s been training and improving every single day,” Canadian Fed Cup captain Heidi El Tabakh said. “We know that for this tie time is against her, but she’s been making a lot of improvements and we have a couple more days [before the tie starts]. As of right now, no decisions have been made.”
There are two other Top 10 players in action: No. 8 Kiki Bertens will lead the Dutch team against Belarus, led by former No. 9 Aryna Sabalenka and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka; and No. 10 Naomi Osaka leads the Japanese team against Spain, which includes former No. 6 Carla Suarez Navarro.
The other four Fed Cup Qualifier ties are Romania against Russia, Belgium (led by No. 19 Elise Mertens) against Kazakhstan, Slovakia against Great Britain and Brazil against Germany.
This week’s Qualifiers will follow the familiar format - four singles rubbers followed by one doubles rubber. The Fed Cup Finals ties will consist of two singles matches followed by the doubles rubber.
Tennis Channel’s live Fed Cup coverage
All times ET, schedule and players subject to change:
Friday, February 7:
6 a.m. – Singles #1 Spain vs. Japan: Sara Sorribes Tormo vs. Naomi Osaka (followed by Singles #2: Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Misaki Doi)
8 a.m. – Singles #1 Canada vs. Switzerland: Leylah Annie Fernandez vs. Jil Teichmann (followed by Singles #2: Eugenie Bouchard vs. Belinda Bencic)
10:30 p.m. – Singles #1 USA vs. Latvia: Sofia Kenin vs. Anastasija Sevastova (followed by Singles #2: Serena Williams vs. Jelena Ostapenko)
Saturday, February 8:
5 a.m. – Singles #3 Spain v. Japan (followed by Singles #4 and Doubles)
7 a.m. – Singles #3 Canada v. Switzerland (followed by Singles #4 and Doubles)
6:30 p.m. – Singles #3 USA v. Latvia (followed by Singles #4 and Doubles)