Emma Raducanu faces Caroline Garcia on return to Billie Jean King Cup

By Sports Desk April 11, 2024

Emma Raducanu will take on Caroline Garcia on Friday in her first match for Great Britain in two years.

The former US Open champion is available to Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup captain Anne Keothavong for the tie against France for the first time since making her debut in April 2022.

On that occasion, Raducanu won her first senior match on clay against Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic before losing heavily to Marketa Vondrousova in a tie Britain ultimately lost 3-2.

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They are back on clay just across the Channel in Le Portel on Friday and Saturday, and Keothavong is likely to need Raducanu to win at least one match if Britain are to spring a surprise and reach the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in November.

Having pulled out of the Miami Open last month with a minor back issue, Raducanu will play her first match since an encouraging showing in Indian Wells ended in a competitive third-round loss to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka.

She has met world number 23 Garcia twice before, beating her in Indian Wells in 2022 then losing at Wimbledon in the same year, but this will be their first match on clay.

Raducanu has played only one match on the surface in nearly two years, and she told reporters in France: “I’ve not spent so much time on clay over the past few years.

“It was interesting at the beginning but I think I learned pretty quickly. I’m starting to feel a lot better on the surface. I think in the future it’s going to be a surface that actually suits me. I’m maybe a little bit away from that right now but I’m enjoying it and I’m enjoying the challenge.

“I think it’s great that we can be in this position playing the French, who are so dominant. Coming on clay I definitely think we’re the underdogs but we have a lot of game and we’re ready to play this weekend.”

The British number one is Katie Boulter, who has surged into the top 30 this year having been ranked well outside the top 100 12 months ago when Britain lost to the same opponents on hard courts in Coventry.

She will take on up-and-coming 21-year-old Diane Parry in the opening match on Friday in what will be just Boulter’s third match on clay since April 2021.

The reverse singles will take place on Saturday and, if necessary, the tie will conclude with a deciding doubles, for which Keothavong has selected Harriet Dart and Heather Watson, although changes can be made.

The GB captain was keen to play up Britain’s status as underdogs, saying: “We’re here on French turf. The French have the home support, they have the experience in this team, they’ve had a lot of success in this competition.

“But I’m confident and I back my players. It’s a great opportunity. We’ve prepared as well as we could have and I’m looking forward to the matches tomorrow.”

Elsewhere in the qualifiers, Naomi Osaka is playing in the competition for the first time since 2020 in Japan’s tie with Kazakhstan while world number one Iga Swiatek leads Poland against Switzerland.

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