GLASGOW: Coco Gauff has her sights set on an uplifting end to the season as the teenage star prepares to lead the US challenge at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals this week.
Billed as the world cup of women’s tennis, the tournament starts on Tuesday in Glasgow and runs until November 13.
Formerly known as the Fed Cup, the 12-team finals comprise four groups of three countries, with each winner advancing to the semi-finals. Each group tie at the Emirates Arena consists of two singles matches and one doubles.
World number four Gauff will drive the US bid, alongside world number three Jessica Pegula, in a tournament that comes at the perfect time for the youngster.
The 18-year-old reached her first Grand Slam final at the French Open this year, continuing a remarkable rise that started in 2019 when she burst onto the scene with a run to the Wimbledon fourth round aged just 15.
Gauff, beaten by Iga Swiatek in the Roland Garros final, this year became the youngest player to qualify for the WTA Finals in singles since Maria Sharapova in 2005.
But she suffered a rare dip when she lost all six of her singles and doubles matches in Texas, leaving her grateful to have a chance to finish the year on a high in Glasgow.
“It’s probably the worst week of the year for me. I never lost so much so fast,“ Gauff said. “Going to BJK Cup I think will be better — I have a team and team-mates who are ready to play.
“I’m kind of grateful I have that tournament because it would be an awful way to end the year on this.”
Poland will be without French Open and US Open champion Swiatek after the world number one opted not to play due to the tournament’s proximity to the WTA Finals, which were scheduled to finish on Monday.
“The situation is not safe for our health and could cause injury,“ she said.
Hosts Great Britain will also be without their key player after former US Open champion Emma Raducanu pulled out with a wrist injury.
Britain have been drawn against Kazakhstan and Spain in Group C.
Despite the absence of Swiatek and Raducanu, there will still be several stars in action, with Kazakhstan led by reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
Switzerland, the 2021 runners-up, are in Group A alongside Canada and Italy.
Australia, who have taken the place of banned 2021 champions Russia, Slovakia and Belgium comprise Group B, with the Czech Republic, Poland and USA in Group D.
After reaching the semi-finals last year and finishing as runners-up in the competition’s previous format in 2019, the Australians are among the contenders for the title.
“We’re here to win the event,“ said Australia captain Alicia Molik. “We got close last year and probably what holds us in good stead is that Australians, and this team in particular, are pretty dedicated, they’re fighters.” – AFP