Australia to kick off BJK Cup finals against Slovenia


Australia will launch the Billie Jean King Cup finals in Seville, playing the opening match of the week-long 'World Cup of women's tennis' against Slovenia as they seek to go one better than their runner's-up finish in 2022.

Alicia Molik's team, who were beaten in last year's final in Glasgow by Switzerland as they sought to regain the global women's team title for the first time since 1974, learned on Thursday of their tough schedule for the 12-team finals at the southern Spanish venue between November 7-12.

They'll face debutant finalists Slovenia in the opening contest on the morning of Tuesday, November 7 before facing a Kazakhstan team, likely to be headed by 2022 Wimbledon champ Elena Rybakina, two days later.

If they finish top of their three-team mini group, they will then advance to Saturday's semi-finals and could go the whole way to Sunday's final, just as they did in Scotland against all the odds.

That achievement was largely down to a magnificent display from Storm Hunter in both the singles and doubles, and the left-hander from Queensland is set to be a key figure again alongside singles luminaries, Ajla Tomljanovic and Daria Saville, who have been fighting back from injuries.

But one potential complication for Hunter could be if she qualifies in the doubles alongside Belgian Elise Mertens at the previous week's WTA Finals.

For it was announced on Thursday that the women's tour's big season-ending event will be held in Cancun, Mexico, from October 29 to November 5, leaving another long trip and very short turnaround for any player who wants to play in both the WTA and BJK Cup finals.

Should Hunter and Mertens, currently second in the race to reach the WTA finals, reach the final in Cancun, the Australian would have no time to travel and prepare properly for Tuesday's BJK Cup tie with Slovenia.

The Slovenians are likely to feature 2021 French Open semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek and former junior star Kaja Juvan in their ranks.

Last year, the then world No.1 Iga Swiatek complained the WTA Finals location in Fort Worth, Texas and the timing - play wrapped up just one day before the start of the BJK Cup finals in Scotland - was a mistake and she skipped the team event.

Now a similar problem looks set to occur again this year, even though the WTA said on Thursday it had made the decision "in close consultation with the WTA Players' Council".