Fed Cup: Heather Watson & Johanna Konta help Great Britain to win over Portugal

Great Britain made a winning start to their Fed Cup campaign with victory over Portugal in Tallinn, Estonia.

Singles wins for Heather Watson and Johanna Konta, and a doubles victory for Jocelyn Rae and Laura Robson, gave Britain a 3-0 win in Group C.

They go on to face Latvia on Thursday and Turkey on Friday, with the group winners earning a play-off against the Group B winners on Saturday.

The winners of that tie will progress to a World Group II play-off in April.

Britain are seeded third among the 14 nations in Tallinn and first in their group, and Portugal were unable to overcome the gap in rankings.

Watson, the world number 72, began with a 57-minute 6-1 6-1 win over Ines Murta, ranked 546th.

World number 10 Konta then saw off 246th-ranked Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-2 6-4 to clinch the tie.

Rae and Robson beat De Brito and Murta 6-2 6-3 in the concluding doubles match.

“I’m really happy to have got the match under my belt,” said Konta. “It was a high-level match, and it got better and better as the match went on. She made me work for it in the end and I’m really happy to have come through for the team.

“We’ll try to come back stronger every day.”

Asked about new captain Anne Keothavong, who replaced Judy Murray in the role at the end of last year, Konta added: “I think she is doing a tremendous job of bringing us together as a team.

“It’s always a tricky one because we spend most of the year as individuals, so for her to do such a good job with us, it says a lot about her.

“We’ve got lots of team bonding in the evenings, lots of funny things going on.”

Watson added: “It’s my first match since the Aussie Open so I’m really happy with the way I played and also to get the first win under the belt for GB.

“It was great having Annie there and she’ll continue to do a great job. So far I’ve really been enjoying the trip with her as captain.”

Britain are likely to face the toughest test of the group stage on Thursday when they take on Latvia, led by world number 35 Jelena Ostapenko.

Fed Cup format

Unlike the men’s Davis Cup, which has a World Group of 16 nations, the Fed Cup divides its top teams into two groups of eight – World Group I and World Group II.

The 91 nations outside the top tiers are divided into three regional zones and Britain have one chance per year to escape – a format that hugely frustrated former captain Judy Murray.

The Europe/Africa Group I event, which this year takes place in Estonia, sees 14 teams divided into groups, with Poland, Croatia, Britain and Serbia the seeded nations.

Four group winners will progress to promotion play-offs on Saturday, and two nations will then qualify for World Group II play-offs in April – which could see Britain given a home Fed Cup tie for the first time since 1993.

They fell at the same stage in 2012 and 2013 – away ties in Sweden and Argentina – under the captaincy of Murray.

FED CUP EUROPE/AFRICA GROUP I
GROUP A GROUP B GROUP C GROUP D
Poland Croatia Great Britain Serbia
Georgia Hungary Turkey Israel
Austria Bosnia/Herzegovina Latvia Bulgaria
Portugal Estonia

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