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Tough first Fed Cup tie for South Africa in Israel
- Updated: February 2, 2016
South Africa’s Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 campaign kicks off with a tough match-up against second seeds Great Britain in Eilat, Israel on Wednesday.
The other 12 nations contesting the Europe/Africa Zone Group I event are Sweden, Portugal, Ukraine, Georgia, Croatia, Estonia, Israel, Turkey, Hungary, Belgium, Bulgaria and Latvia.
All countries 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’s other Pool B opponents will be Georgia. They play Great Britain on Wednesday morning followed by the unseeded Georgia in the afternoon.
Britain are captained by Judy Murray, mother of Australian Open finalist Andy. She 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 roughly 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.
South Africa’s team captain Earl Grainger said 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 different pools are as follows:
1-Sweden, Portugal, Ukraine
2-Great Britain: Heather Watson, Anna Smith, Jocelyn Rae), fourth member to be confirmed
Captain: Judy Murray
Georgia: Sofia Shapatava, Ekaterine Gorgodze, Sofia Kvatsabaia, Oksana Kalashnikova
Captain: Margalita Chakhnashvili-Ranzinger
South Africa: Chanel Simmonds, Ilze Hattingh, Madrie Le Roux, Michelle Sammons
Captain: Earl Grainger