|Location: National Tennis Centre, Roehampton Dates: 16-17 April|
|Cover: Watch live on Red Button and Sports & App (Friday 2pm – 6pm BST; Saturday 11:30am – 3pm and 4:15pm – 7pm).|
Heather Watson and Katie Boulter gave Great Britain victory by beating Mexico in the Billie Jean King Cup play-off.
Boulter was put to the test early in the trials by defeating Marcela Zacarias 7-5, 6-0, before Watson defeated Juliana Olmos 7-5, 6-1 to give the hosts a 2-0 lead in the five-game series.
Play at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton continues in singles on Saturday.
If they win, Britain will be just one win away from qualifying for the 2022 finals.
I don’t think I could have asked for more, said GB captain Anne Keothavong.
It was a fantastic performance by Katie and Heather. They both struggled in the first few sets, but once they were able to relax and find their rhythm, they played a solid match, and that’s what counts.
The Billie Jean King Cup is the new name for the Fed Cup, an international women’s team competition in which Britain has finished second four times but has never won.
Saturday sees two reverse singles and a rubber doubles match, and Watson could make it a perfect draw if she beats Zakaria in the opening match (11.30am BST).
Watson overcomes nerves
With Britain’s Johanna Konta at the top of the world rankings, who has been struggling with knee problems for some time, the experienced Watson is 68th in the world rankings.
There was a 366-point difference between her and Olmos, which was not reflected in a tight first set in which they traded breaks in four of the first five games.
Watson used her powerful forehand to create set points on the Mexican’s serves, which she finished off with the forehand winner.
A break in the fourth game of the second set, including a stunning forehand into the corner of the net that found the line, proved decisive as Watson stretched and reversed his first two match points when Olmos returned his serve from long range.
It was a bit nerve-wracking, I want my country to be proud of me, said Watson, who has won 30 of 43 games in the league so far.
In the second round, I started to feel more comfortable, I went online. I am very happy and looking forward to tomorrow.
Katie Boulter hit a career-high 82 in 2019 before an injury derailed her progress.
Early win for Boulter and the tambourine of a teammate
The atmosphere could not have been more different from Boulter’s last Fed Cup match two years ago, when she earned a playoff point against Kazakhstan in a packed Copper Boxing Arena in London.
Here, his teammates and coaching staff did their best to keep things alive behind closed doors. Katie Swan and Jodi Barrage were waving red tambourines between drinks.
Boulter got off to a slow start, losing the first game, but then broke a four game losing streak.
She showed exemplary fighting spirit, fending off two break points with well-placed serve to take a 6-5 lead and seal the set on a net from Zacarias.
The Briton hasn’t looked back since, finding depth and rhythm in her strokes to fight through a 26-minute set, securing victory in her third game with a powerful backhand to her back.
I was a bit nervous at first, said Boulter, who is six places below her rival in the world rankings with 291 points, but was in the top 100 two years ago before a back injury, aggravated at the Fed Cup, sidelined her for an extended period.
The first set was very close and I was able to win it, which allowed me to relax and play very good tennis in the second set.
Teammates Jodie Burrage and Katie Swan helped seal the deal with a different kind of bat.
Ukraine and Canada in Command Groups
Great Britain’s match against Mexico is one of eight playoff games to be played this weekend.
Elina Svitolina, number 5 in the world rankings, put Ukraine in the lead against Japan with a 6-3 6-2 win over Chihiro Muramatsu and Marta Kostyuk extended her lead with a 6-3 6-3 win over Yuki Naito.
Canada lead 2-0 through victories from Rebecca Marino and 18-year-old Leila Annie Fernandez, while Italy face a similar battle against Romania, who will be without two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep due to a shoulder injury.
Poland and Brazil are tied at 1-1, while the Netherlands, whose team includes the world number 11, is the only team in the world with a record. Kiki Bertens stands, and China on the deciding day also each a victory to the credit.
In other matches, Argentina played a 1-1 draw with Kazakhstan, while Latvia led 2-0 against India.
Heather Watson and Katie Boulter put Great Britain in control of their Billie Jean King Cup play-off against Mexico with convincing wins.
Boulter was tested early in a 7-5 6-0 win over Marcela Zacarias before Watson beat Giuliana Olmos 7-5 6-1 to send the hosts 2-0 up in the best-of-five tie.
The tie at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton resumes on Saturday with the reverse singles.
Victory would put Great Britain one win from qualifying for the 2022 Finals.
“I don’t think I could have asked for anything more,” GB captain Anne Keothavong said.
“It was a fantastic performance from Katie and Heather. Both came through tough first sets but, once they were able to relax and find their groove, they finished strong and that’s what matters.”
The Billie Jean King Cup is the new name for the Fed Cup, the women’s international team event that Great Britain have finished runners-up in four times but have never won.
There are two reverse singles and one doubles rubber scheduled for Saturday with Watson able to wrap up the tie if she beats Zacarias in the opening match of the day (11:30 BST).
Watson overcomes early nerves
With British number one Johanna Konta missing while she manages a long-standing knee problem, the experienced Watson is the highest ranked player in the tie at 68th in the world.
There was a gulf of 366 places in the ranking between her and Olmos, which was not reflected in a tight opening set where they traded breaks in four of the first five games.
Watson used her powerful forehand to great effect to create set points on the Mexican’s serve, wrapping it up with a forehand winner.
A break in the fourth game of the second set, which included a beautiful angled forehand at the net that found the line, proved key as Watson stretched ahead and converted the first of her two match points when Olmos returned a serve long.
“It was a bit of nerves, I want to do my country proud,” said Watson, who has now won 30 of her 43 matches in the competition.
“In the second set I started to feel more comfortable, I came into the net more. I’m feeling very happy and I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Katie Boulter reached a career-high ranking of 82 in 2019 before injury derailed her progress
Boulter’s early win & team-mates’ tambourines
The atmosphere could not have been more different to Boulter’s last Fed Cup appearance two years ago where she secured the winning point in a play-off against Kazakhstan at a packed and raucous Copper Box Arena in London.
Here it was her team-mates and the coaching staff who did their best to create some noise behind closed doors, with Katie Swan and Jodie Burrage on their feet shaking red tambourines in between points.
Boulter made a slow start, losing her opening service game before breaking back in the fourth game.
She displayed her trademark grit to save two break points with some well-placed serves to go 6-5 up and sealed the set when Zacarias netted a backhand.
From then on the Briton did not look back, finding depth and speed on her shots to race through a 26-minute second set, claiming victory on her third match point with a powerful cross-court backhand winner.
“Initially I was a little bit nervous,” said Boulter, who is ranked six places below her opponent at 291 in the world but was in the top 100 two years ago before a back injury aggravated in the Fed Cup sidelined her for a lengthy spell.
“It was a really close first set and I managed to squeeze it through and that really helped me relax and so going into the second set I played some really good tennis.”
Team-mates Jodie Burrage and Katie Swan helped proceedings with a different kind of racket
Ukraine & Canada in command of ties
Great Britain’s encounter with Mexico is one of eight play-offs taking place this weekend.
World number five Elina Svitolina put Ukraine ahead against Japan with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Chihiro Muramatsu before Marta Kostyuk extended their lead with a 6-3 6-3 win against Yuki Naito.
Canada lead Serbia 2-0 after wins for Rebecca Marino and 18-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez, while Italy are similarly in charge against Romania, who are without two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep because of a shoulder injury.
Poland and Brazil are level at 1-1, while the Netherlands – whose team includes world number 11 Kiki Bertens – and China also have one win apiece going into the deciding day.
In the other ties, Argentina are drawing 1-1 with Kazakhstan and Latvia lead India 2-0.