World No. 3 Simona Halep, No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 10 Kiki Bertens headline the nominations for the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Play-offs on 16-17 April.
The trio are the star names across the 16 teams that will do battle in eight ties - seven in Europe and one in Argentina - next week in a bid to secure their place in the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers in 2022.
It’s a milestone weekend for the competition – the first since it was re-branded last September to become the first major global team event to be named after a woman – and there is plenty of anticipation for the new era to begin.
“It is an honour to represent our country in a competition named after a true pioneer not just for women’s tennis, but women in general,” said Canada captain Heidi El Tabakh, summing up the feelings of many set to take part.
Romania are also entering a new era, with player-captain Monica Niculescu set to become the 12th female to head up a nation competing at play-off level or above when she takes the reins against Italy in Cluj-Napoca.
And Niculescu will hope Halep, Romania’s leading woman on the court, can extend her eight-match winning streak in singles matches for her country.
Halep has not lost a singles match in the Billie Jean King Cup since 2016, when she fell to Germany’s Angelique Kerber, and she’ll be determined to continue that form against the Italians.
Niculescu, who would likely compete in doubles if required, has also named Patricia Maria Tig, Irina Maria Bara and Mihaela Buzarnescu for the tie, while Italy will be led by world No.99 Martina Trevisan and supported by Jasmine Paolini, Elisabetta Cocciaretto, Giula Laura Gatto Monticone and Bianca Turati.
Svitolina, meanwhile, is set to play her first Billie Jean King Cup tie on home soil since 2017 when she anchors a strong Ukrainian side against Japan in Chornomorsk.
The 26-year-old, who will be joined by Marta Kostyuk, Katarina Zavatska, and Nadiia and Lyudmyla Kichenok, has a 12-10 record from 16 ties since making her debut in 2012, and will be heavily favoured to further improve that record against inexperienced opponents.
Japan’s team to travel to Ukraine features four Billie Jean King Cup debutants, headlined by rising star Yuki Naito.
Naito, 20, climbed to a career-high ranking of No. 169 at the end of March after winning her sixth professional singles title at W25 Buenos Aires, and admitted her pride at being picked to lead the team alongside Chihiro Muramatsu, Shiho Akita and Himari Sato.
"I am honoured to have been selected as a member of the Billie Jean King Cup for the first time,” she said. “I will do my best to contribute to the Japan national team. Thank you to all the fans who have always supported me."
Paul Haarhuis’ Dutch team will again call on the experience of Bertens when they take on China, P.R. in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Since making her debut in the competition a decade ago, Bertens has established herself as one of the leading Billie Jean King Cup players of her generation, winning 20 of the 22 singles matches she has played while representing her nation.
Bertens is joined by Arantxa Rus, Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs to take on the Chinese team, which is comprised of Shuai Zhang, Saisai Zheng, Yifan Xu, Xiyu Wang and Xinyu Wang.
Canada will travel to Serbia with world No. 72 Leylah Fernandez, Rebecca Marino, Carol Zhao and Sharon Fichman following the injury-related withdrawal of their No. 1, Bianca Andreescu, while the Serbs have nominated Nina Stojanovic, Olga Danilovic, Aleksandra Krunic, Ivana Jorovic and Lola Radivojevic.
World No. 67 Heather Watson leads the line for Great Britain, while No. 149 Harriet Dart, No. 245 Katie Swan, No. 256 Jodie Burrage and No. 292 Katie Boulter complete Anne Keothavong’s team for their home clash with Mexico at London’s National Tennis Centre.
"We all know the LTA’s National Tennis Centre very well and we’re looking forward to a competitive tie in familiar surroundings, and hopefully we can advance to the 2022 Qualifiers,” said Keothavong.
Mexico have been dealt a blow with the absence of their No. 1 Renata Zarazua, so world No. 285 Marcela Zacarias, No. 432 Giuliana Olmos, No. 477 Fernanda Contreras and Julia Garcia Ruiz complete the line-up for their trip to London.
Urszula Radwanska returns to the Polish team for the first time in six years for their playoff with Brazil on home soil in Bytom, with world No. 51 Magda Linette, Katarzyna Kawa, Magdalena Frech and Paula Kania-Chodun also feature in Dawid Celt’s side.
Gabriela Ce, Laura Pigossi, Carolina Meligeni Alves and Luisa Stefani will feature for Brazil, who are aiming to maintain their undefeated record against Poland having won their only previous clash back in 1989.
Anastasija Sevastova and Jelena Ostapenko will lead the line for Latvia when they take on India in Jurmala, with Diana Marcinkevica, Daniela Vismane and Patricija Spaka also named in captain Adrians Zguns’ team.
Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina both feature in India’s team. Mirza, the former doubles world No. 1, and Raina, who became the second Indian player to win a WTA title in February, will be joined by Rutuja Bhosale, debutant Zeel Desai and Karman Kaur Thandi.
World No. 46 Nadia Podoroska, Lourdes Carle, Victoria Boso, Guillermina Naya and Jazmin Ortenzi make up Argentina’s team for the visit of Kazakhstan, who, along with playercaptain Yaroslava Shvedova, will travel to Corboda with Elena Rybakina, Yulia Putintseva, Zarina Diyas and Anna Danilina.