World Group status in the balance for Britain's Fed Cup team
Tennis

World Group status in the balance for Britain's Fed Cup team

21 April 2018 / 12:27

Great Britain’s 25-year wait for a place in the Fed Cup World Group hangs in the balance after a mixed opening day in their play-off against Japan.

Not since 1993 has the team been in the competition’s top tier but Anne Keothavong’s charges remain in with a chance after a win and loss on the opening day.

There was victory for Johanna Konta, in straight sets, though Heather Watson fell to a defeat in the opener – the first of a potential five rubbers to be played in Miki City.

Watson and Konta will switch singles opponents on Sunday while the action could be decided in the doubles, with Anna Smith and Gabi Taylor set to go the British team.

The tie didn’t start in the best fashion with Watson on the wrong end of a 6-2 6-3 scoreline to world No.22 Naomi Osaka.

The Indian Wells champion has been the form player of 2018, duly showing her capabilities to break twice in the opening set to move within one of victory.

Watson had a chance to return the favour but Osaka held firm, then going to break later on in proceedings to put Japan 1-0 up with four rubbers to play.

But Konta ensured the British deficit was not to last for long, levelling up the tie with a convincing 6-4 6-2 win over Kurumi Nara.

Indeed British No.1 Konta made an immediate impact, breaking in the very first game of the contest – a moment she wasn’t to look back from as she took the first set.

She repeated the trick in the second too, one of four breaks she secured in the two-set contest and, while Nara put pressure on her serve, Konta ultimately did enough to level up the tie.

She now plays Osaka in what could be a thriller, with the Brit victorious in each of their three previous meetings, while it’s Nara on the other side of the net for Watson.

"Throughout the whole match she did an incredible job of rising to the occasion and she made it very hard for me," Konta told BBC Sport.

"We will come back stronger on Sunday and try to compete well. Naomi is playing at a very high level this year so I will enjoy playing against an in-form player and do my best out there.”

Captain Keothavong added: "There's plenty to play for on Sunday and we're ready for it.

"I feel the team has prepared as well as we could have done and the team know what to expect - there are no surprises out there. It's a case of who is best out there on the day."

Sportsbeat 2018