The ITF has announced the official draw for the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group I event taking place from 3-6 February 2016. The four day event will be played in Eilat, Israel at the Municipal Tennis Centre there. The 14 nations contesting the Europe/Africa Zone Group I event are Sweden, Portugal, Ukraine, Great Britain, Georgia, Croatia, Estonia, Israel, Turkey, Hungary, Belgium, Bulgaria, Latvia and South Africa. All nations contesting the Zone Group I events will be bidding to qualify for the Fed Cup World Group II play-offs on 16-17 April, with two teams qualifying from the Europe/Africa Zone, and one team from both the Americas and Asia/Oceania Zones.
South Africa have drawn second seeds Great Britain and Georgia in their Pool B. South Africa will play Great Britain for their opening match on Wednesday morning followed by unseeded Georgia Wednesday afternoon. Britain who is captained by mother of Andy Murray, Judy confirmed Monday that their star player Johanna Konta would miss the tournament due to an intestinal issue. Konta was a surprise semi-finalist at last week’s Australian Open where she lost to eventual winner Angelique Kerber.
She also reached the fourth round of last year’s US Open and is ranked 47 in the world. With Konta out, the British side will be spearheaded by Heather Watson, ranked 79 on the world rankings. Georgia’s players are ranked around the same as the South African players on the world rankings but with the tournament being played on hard court, team South Africa could have an advantage over their opponents who prefer the slow clay.
Team Captain Earl Grainger says that his team faced a big challenge in Israel: ‘Let’s not kid ourselves we are in a very tough tournament and have drawn the second seeds in our opening pool. We were promoted last year largely to the fact that Chani Scheepers made herself available for the team and not losing a rubber. But with Chani retiring late last year we have no player in the top 150 to lead our challenge. But we have a very competent and enthusiastic team who are able to deliver so South Africa can be well assured of our best efforts always.’
The draw conducted Monday is as follows:
(Fourth member to be confirmed)
Captain: Judy Murray
Captain: Margalita Chakhnashvili-Ranzinger
Madrie Le Roux
Captain: Earl Grainger
Photo by Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images