Emma Raducanu is entering the unknown but says clay could prove to be her “best surface” as she prepares to lead Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup team against the Czech Republic this week.
The 19-year-old will play her first ever professional clay-court match when taking on world No 50 Tereza Martincova on Friday.
As the world No 12, Raducanu stands as the highest-ranked player in the British team, where she is joined by Harriet Dart, Katie Swan and Sonay Kartal.
That brings with it added responsibility for Billie Jean King Cup debutant Raducanu, with the spotlight also on how the US Open champion fares on the red dirt, a surface she hopes to quickly master.
“I feel like I could love the longer points – building it, having the time on the ball to really be aggressive,” said Raducanu, who has been training at Riccardo Piatti’s academy in Italy ahead of the team event in Prague.
Raducanu’s singles match against Martincova comes after 25-year-old Dart plays the first rubber against 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova.
The best-of-five qualifying tie also features two more singles matches – Vondrousova vs. Raducanu and Dart vs. Martincova – and a doubles rubber on Saturday if necessary.
How to watch Billie Jean King Cup 2022
Britain’s tie with the Czech Republic will be live on BBC’s streaming services, plus the LTA’s official TikTok.
Friday 15 April
The first match starts at 11am BST on BBC iPlayer, Red Button and BBC Sport app.
- Harriet Dart (GBR) vs Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)
- Emma Raducanu (GBR) vs Tereza Martincova (CZE)
Saturday 16 April
The first match starts at 10.30am BST on BBC iPlayer, Red Button and BBC Sport app.
- Emma Raducanu (GBR) vs Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)
- Harriet Dart (GBR) v Tereza Martincova (CZE)
- Katie Swan & Sonay Kartal (GBR) & Marie Bouzkova & Linda Fruhvirtova (CZE)
British captain Anne Keothavong admits it feels like a “new era” with Raducanu leading the team, which is without either the retired Johanna Konta or Heather Watson – who wants to focus on boosting her singles ranking – for the first time since 2010.
“I guess a lot has happened over the past year and obviously Emma’s success has been highlighted and we’ve seen what she’s been able to achieve in such a short space of time,” said Keothavong.
“So we’re kind of getting into the unknown a little bit, and there has been a bit of a changing of the guard.
“I’m sure Emma will embrace her position, lead the team by example and really grow in that role in the years to come.”
The Czechs have pedigree in the Billie Jean King Cup, winning the event 11 times and on six occasions alone since 2011, but their top singles trio Barbora Krejcikova (world No 2), Karolina Pliskova (No 7) and Petra Kvitova (No 28) are all absent, with world No 1 doubles player Katerina Siniakova recently pulling out with injury as well.
Martincova and Vondrousova will still provide a stern test in the singles against Raducanu and Dart, with the latter recently breaking into the top 100 after reaching the last 16 at Indian Wells last month.
“It was great to see. She did a good job of stringing all those matches and she completed well. The conditions suited her perfectly and when she’s in the right mindset ella she’s a tough opponent for anyone out there, ”Keothavong told Sky Sports.
“Once you break into the top 100, it’s a huge milestone and it’s been a long time coming for Harriet so I’m pleased to see her crack the top 100.
“Now she just needs to continue building. It’s all about taking these opportunities and now that her ranking of her is higher, hopefully entry into some of the bigger events will be easier.
“She will hopefully have guaranteed main draw status at the French Open and potentially Wimbledon.”