Billie Jean King Cup Playoffs

Nations fight for a spot in the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier

By Ashton Kowalski

The Billie Jean King Cup is a long-standing WTA tournament that began in 1963. With over 100 nations participating, it is now the world’s largest annual international team competition in women’s sports. Formerly known as the Federation Cup, the Cup changed its name to the Fed Cup in 1995 before taking on its current title in 2020, the Billie Jean King Cup. Named after the legend and WTA founder Billie Jean King herself, this tournament recognizes the great efforts King has accomplished to grow women’s tennis to the popular sport it is today. 

The Great Britain Team shows off their country pride during the 2021 playoffs.
(SOURCE: Naomi Baker/Getty Images for LTA)

The Billie Jean King Cup is a unique tournament that is laid out a bit different than others. It is split into four sections—Finals, Quarterfinals, Playoffs, and Groups. Teams qualify for the Finalsthrough Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiersthat are played in a home-and-away series. The teams are nation-based and only 12 teams are allotted spots in the six-day Finals. The nations that don’t qualify are split into groups of three regions: Americas, Asia/Oceania, and Europe/Africa. 

The Cup Qualifiers took place on February 7-8, 2020. The eight winners of the 2020 Qualifiers were Belarus, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and the USA. They will join Australia, France, Hungary and Czech Republic in the Finals. For those who didn’t make it straight to the Finals in the qualifying round, the Playoff tournament was held April 16-17, 2021. The Playoffs determined who will participate in the 2022 Qualifiers.

The Playoffs included the eight losing nations from the 2020 Qualifiers and eight promoted teams from the three regional groups. The countries in the 2021 Playoffs consisted of, Poland, Brazil, Great Britain, Mexico, Serbia, Canada, Latvia, India, Ukraine, Japan, Romania, Italy, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, and China. The teams consisted of five players from each nation and the matches, or ties as they are called in the Cup, are played in a round-robin style. The eight teams who advanced from the Playoffs and are set to play in the 2022 Qualifiers are Poland, Great Britain, Canada, Latvia, Ukraine, Italy, Kazakhstan, and Netherlands. 

Leylah Annie Fernandez serving it out on the court during the 2021 playoffs.

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, No. 72 in the world rankings, shined as she battled it out on the court for her country. The young player was trailing in the third set against Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic when the lights went out at the indoor facility. There was a lot on the line for Fernandez, who needed to step up for her country since top player Bianca Andreescu was out with a foot injury. When the lights returned, Fernadez won the next two points and defeated Stojanovic to help her country advance to the Qualifiers. 

Great Britain’s upset in the 2020 Qualifiers made this Playoff particularly important for the nation. Though Great Britain has made it to the Finals four times, they’ve never secured a win. With home court advantage on her side, Britain’s No. 68 ranked Heather Watson breezed past Mexico’s Guiliana Olmos. Watson’s teammate Katie Boulter defeated Mexico’s Marcela Zacarias the same day. Zacarias battled it out with Watson to get one defeat over Great Britain, but in the end the Brits defeated Mexico, winning the tie. 

The 2021 Billie Jean Cup Finals will be played at the László Papp Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary. A date for the finals tournament hasn’t been set yet due to Covid-19 delays, but fans certainly have plenty to be excited about when Cup action returns.  

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