Top women tennis players from around the world will arrive in Bath next February to compete in the prestigious Federation Cup.
The tournament will be returning to the UK after a 26-year hiatus and the University of Bath has been selected to stage the event.
The Federation Cup is a women’s team tournament, similar to the men’s Davis Cup and sometimes described as the ‘World Cup of Tennis’. Those representing GB have included Wimbledon Ladies Singles Semi-Finalist Johanna Konta, Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Champion (2016) Heather Watson and Team Bath’s own Anna Smith, the current British Number 1 in doubles.
February 6th-9th will see the Europe/African round robin stage, with players battling for a place in the World Group I. The Sports Training Village will welcome teams from Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey and GB.
To celebrate the launch of tickets, GB Fed Cup Captain and former top 50 player Anne Keothavong, along with Anna Smith, came to the university’s indoor tennis centre to talk about the event and even hit a few balls on court. They were joined by girls from Team Bath’s Tennis Academy, social players from the university and club members from the local area.
On the announcement of the Federation Cup being hosted on home soil, Smith said, “It’s massive. We haven’t had a home tie for over a quarter of a century so for us to be able to bring the Federation Cup to Bath and the West Country is huge”.
Less-avid tennis followers may be familiar with the main tennis events held in the UK, Wimbledon and the ATP World Tour finals, but Smith remarked that, “The Fed Cup is a totally different atmosphere. We want everyone to come and cheer on GB.”
“It’s incredible to be a part of. Tennis is an individual sport so it’s one of those rare occasions where you get to share it with a team which makes it even more special.”
The event is of particular significance for Team Bath’s International High Performance Tennis Academy, which displays the pinnacle of performance tennis. When 14-year-old academy player Zara heard the news about the Fed Cup she “squealed”. She said, “I was jumping up and down, I was so happy. I cannot wait. It’s really great because you get to see the level you need to get to.”
“It will be great to see some epic points, country battling it out with country. Like in any sport, everyone will come together to support their home team, they will all have something in common.”
Alexandra Walker, who previously represented GB at the World University Games and is now Academy Programme Manager, said “It’s a fantastic opportunity for Bath and Team Bath as a whole. It will shine a light on women’s tennis in the UK and give students and members of the local public the chance to come and watch the top level of tennis in the world.”
Indeed, hosting the Federation Cup in the UK will put a national spotlight on women’s tennis. With recent controversies over sexism, double standards and gender pay gaps, showcasing top female athletes on home soil could draw more attention to these ongoing issues. The competition will be a celebration of women in tennis and sport in general.
The university’s nationally recognised indoor tennis centre will be transformed into a vibrant arena, with the show courts accommodating 1800 spectators. Indeed, huge temporary restructuring and development plans will have to be undertaken to cater for the unusually high numbers visiting the Sports Training Village.
Caroline Searle, Leader of Marketing and Communications for Sports Development and Recreation at Bath described how “a hole will be knocked through the upper railings to allow scaffolding steps to descend onto the courts. This will create two spectator entrances.”
Further considerations include safety and transport. The Lawn Tennis Association will be funding additional fire escapes for the centre and the events organisers are collaborating with First Bus to increase the number of U1s present. They will also enhance the Lansdown Park and Ride system and all those attending will be encouraged to use public transport.
The Federation Cup promises to bring unique buzz and world class athletes to the Sports Training Village. Students are encouraged to come and support GB (# BackTheBrits) and enjoy sport of the highest level.
The Lawn Tennis Association are offering Bath students an exclusive ticket offer and you can secure your seat by heading to www.lta.org.uk/fedcuptickets. Once here, enter SUofferBATH19 when prompted to enter an access code and again as a promocode to apply the discount. The discount means tickets are £5 regardless of session/seating, with a small booking fee. Terms and conditions apply; please see the website for full details.