Great Britain will aim to upset the odds again in the Billie Jean King Cup when they take on France in Coventry without the absent Emma Raducanu.
The British number one, now the only home woman ranked in the singles top 100 after Harriet Dart’s poor start to the season, made herself unavailable as she prepares for the start of the clay-court swing in Stuttgart next week.
Raducanu was injured when Britain defeated Spain in Glasgow last November to reach the semi-finals of the competition formerly known as the Fed Cup for the first time in more than 40 years before falling narrowly to Australia.
Captain Anne Keothavong was clearly unimpressed by Raducanu saying, prior to confirming she would not play, that she did not know when the tie was, writing on Twitter: “My communication skills are generally good in case anyone was wondering.”
Raducanu felt, given her ongoing physical issues, that making such a quick change from indoor hard court to clay was not in her best interests but the fact she is committed to Stuttgart through her sponsor Porsche made it a somewhat sensitive subject.
Keothavong was keen to focus on the players she does have available but said of Raducanu: “I think we all know when this tie was going to be played and where she is now.
“But it’s irrelevant. We hope she makes herself available for future ties. I know she wants to be part of this team. It was just, on this occasion, it wasn’t the right timing for her.”
Keothavong has stuck with the same team of Dart, Katie Boulter, Heather Watson, Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls despite none being in good form.
British number two Jodie Burrage, who won the biggest title of her career in France at the start of April, was unhappy to be overlooked and is ranked 30 places above Dart.
“I’m really excited that this team have been able to come together again,” said Keothavong. “We created so many happy memories that week we had in Glasgow and we’ve got that shared experience together.
“The nominations had to be made early on in March. This is a team that I feel have a bond and have performed many times in this competition in the past, certainly our singles players.
Dart produced two of the best performances of her career at the finals last year, beating Spain’s Paula Badosa and Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, but has been unable to build on that, winning only one tour level match this year and plummeting to 138 in the rankings.
She is hoping playing for her country again can kickstart her season, saying: “I love being in a team environment. I feel like I really thrive with all the support on the sidelines.
“I’ve had some tough moments in the past few months but to try and rekindle that spark is definitely something I’m going to be after.”
Garcia, who made herself available despite also planning to play in Stuttgart, is wary of more British heroics, saying: “I’m really looking forward to the tie. It is an important tie. GB made it to the semi-finals last year and I’m sure they are full of confidence from the great results.”
The winners of the tie will qualify for the finals week in November. Britain lost to the Czech Republic at the same stage last year before being given a reprieve as hosts but the International Tennis Federation is understood to be looking elsewhere this time.