Billie Jean King Cup 2021 Predictions
Formerly known as the Fed Cup, the Billie Jean King Cup was renamed to honour the trailblazing player and activist in 2020. It’s also been revamped to mimic the new-look Davis Cup, the competition of which it is the women’s equivalent, with the system of home-and-away ties throughout the year replaced by a five-day ‘Finals’ event.
The inaugural Billie Jean King Cup Finals were scheduled to be played in April 2020 but were postponed due to the global pandemic and will now take place from 13-18 April 2021 in Budapest, Hungary.
The 12 nations who will compete in Budapest from 13-18 April 2021 had already been determined by qualifying ties played in February 2020, and the draw for the Billie Jean King Cup Finals has been made so we have a good idea of which nations look well-placed to reach the elimination stages.
The USA are the most successful nation in Billie Jean King Cup history and will be among the favourites, as will Czech Republic, who have emerged as a powerhouse in the competition in recent years.
Here is the draw for the 2021 Billie Jean King Cup Finals:
|Group||Top seed||Second seed||Third seed|
|D||Czech Republic (4)||Germany||Switzerland|
Are France the favourites?
After falling short in 2016 when they were denied by the Czech Republic, France won their third and most recent Billie Jean King Cup title when they narrowly defeated Australia at home in 2019, with Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia getting three singles wins and then combining for a decisive doubles win.
Inconsistent in WTA play, Mladenovic is an excellent Billie Jean King Cup performer, and Garcia plays well in the competition too. Fiona Ferro, much improved in 2020, and veteran Alize Cornet are likely to also feature in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals team in 2021. But while host nation Hungary are unlikely to muster much resistance, France should have a much harder time against Russia and could struggle to get out of their group.
Barty shoulders all Australia’s hopes
They are the third most successful nation in Billie Jean King Cup history, but Australia’s last title came in 1974 and they were denied an eighth by France in the 2019 final, the last ‘traditional’ one, despite playing at home.
Australia only have two women ranked inside the top 100, world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty and injury-prone but powerful Ajla Tomljanovic, and they will need Barty to win – a lot – if they are to reach the elimination stages. That’s a lot for Barty to bear, especially considering she did not play in 2020 after Doha in February. Then there’s the fact that Australia are in a very tough group with Belarus and Belgium, and it would be no surprise if the 2019 finalists do not make it to the elimination stages.
Aryna Sabalenka, at the time of writing ranked world no. 12, and Aliaksandra Sasnovich have proved a powerful Billie Jean King Cup combination in recent years, most notably when they made the final in 2017. They also impressed in a qualifying win over a Netherlands team led by Kiki Bertens to book their Billie Jean King Cup Finals place.
Sabalenka and Sasnovich alone are a tough Belarusian team, but add in a potential appearance by Victoria Azarenka who had a sensationally resurgent 2020, and they could be virtually unbeatable despite a tough group which includes Australia and Elise Mertens’s Belgium.
USA – A-OK (even without the Williams sisters)
The USA are the most successful nation in Billie Jean King Cup history and although they have not won the title since 2000, they have been in the final of three of the past 11 editions of the tournament.
Depth is key for the USA. While some nations rely heavily on one or two top-100 players, the USA can boast ten women ranked inside the top 100 and although the Williams sisters are very unlikely to play, the Americans can still pick from a pool including Grand Slam champions Sofia Kenin and Sloane Stephens as well as Madison Keys, Jennifer Brady, Danielle Collins, Alison Riske and Amanda Anisimova, all of whom have made Grand Slam semifinals or better.
It looks unlikely that either Spain or Slovakia will be able to stop the USA from reaching the semifinals, where they would certainly be favoured against France and possibly against Russia.
Russia have eight women currently ranked inside the top 100 and while their depth is not quite as impressive as the USA, they could be a force at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in 2021 – especially if Daria Kasatkina pulls out of her slump, as she showed signs of doing late in 2020.
Ekaterina Alexandrova has been steadily improving over the past couple of seasons, Anastasia Potapova is a very impressive rising young player and veterans Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Billie Jean King Cup stalwarts both – can lend experience as well as devastating power.
Their clash with France in Group A will be key, but if they can beat the defending champions, they could be facing the USA in the semifinals.
Czech Republic – powerhouse rising once more?
The Czech Republic have become a huge force in this competition in recent years, overtaking Australia to become the second most successful nation behind the USA and winning the title six of eight years between 2011 and 2018.
With ten women ranked between world no. 6 and world no. 120, including Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova and a crop of improving younger players such as Barbora Krejcikova, Marie Bouzkova and Karolina Muchova, the Czechs should be extremely dangerous at the 2021 Billie Jean King Cup Finals. But they have landed in a tough group with Germany and Switzerland, who should be led by Angelique Kerber and Belinda Bencic respectively, and then could have to contend with Belarus or possibly Australia in the semifinals. It will be a tough road for them.
Billie Jean King Cup Finals 2021 Tips
Considering the draw for the Billie Jean King Cup Finals 2021, there’s only one nation that looks absolutely nailed on to reach the semifinals, and that’s the USA.
The Americans, who have such strength in depth and should be led by the excellent competitor that is Sofia Kenin (currently a top-five player after winning the Australian Open and reaching the French Open final in 2020), should have little trouble with Slovakia or with a Spanish team lacking Carla Suarez Navarro and led by the inconsistent Garbine Muguruza.
The USA will also have the ‘softer’ semifinal against the winners of Group A. That could be France, the defending champions led by Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia, or Russia, who lack a signature top player but have an intriguing pool of talented albeit inconsistent younger players and veterans to draw on. When representing France in the Billie Jean King Cup, Mladenovic tends to play the kind of top tennis she produced in 2017 rather than her usual level; Garcia also rises to the occasion; and Fiona Ferro also made great strides upwards in 2020, so we should look to see France facing the USA in the semifinals. But the USA should be able to end their run at that point.
The more interesting and unpredictable half of the draw is Groups B and D. Australia nominally head Group B, but are heavily reliant on world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty, and even if Barty is playing well, she can’t win every rubber by herself for a week. The 2019 finalists could well be ‘upset’ by the Belarusian combination of Aryna Sabalenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich, even if they aren’t bolstered by Victoria Azarenka.
In Group D, you can make a case for every nation to reach the semifinals. Switzerland have Belinda Bencic and Jil Teichmann; Germany, Angelique Kerber backed up by Laura Siegemund, Tatjana Maria and Andrea Petkovic. Then, there’s the Czech Republic: Petra Kvitova is a superb indoors player, Karolina Pliskova performs well in Billie Jean King Cup, and they have Marketa Vondrousova and Karolina Muchova to call on, even if Barbora Strycova – an important, reliable presence – has called time on her international career. The Czech Republic are the powerhouse side, but with the tougher draw and more unpredictable teams in their path, they might be a chancier bet than backing the USA to win the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in 2021.