Playing to sell-out crowds at the University of Bath, Great Britain won all their matches to set up a historical opportunity of progressing to the World Group II of the Federation Cup.
Eight teams descended on Bath for the Europe/Africa matches of the Fed Cup, also known as the “women’s world cup of tennis”. After beating Slovenia, Greece, Hungary and Serbia, Team GB now face one more play-off match in April, where a victory could see them go through to the World Group II of the tournament for the first time in over 25 years.
After being named the Best Sports University, hosting responsibilities offered Bath a chance to show what it can do in its biggest sporting event to date. The Sports Training Village welcomed its largest ever crowd for this stage of the competition, with over 15,000 fans buying tickets.
Speaking on Friday, GB captain Anne Keothavong praised the STV’s sporting facilities and the organisation of tournament, saying that “the players will leave here with very fond memories”.
Despite the GB matches starting late in the afternoon and continuing beyond midnight, the crowd offered immutable support. They saw Britain’s number 2, Katie Boulter, win all four matches in her debut Fed Cup, while Katie Swan and Harriet Dart emerged triumphant from their stunning late night doubles fixtures.
Johanna Konta, the GB number one, described the crowd’s support as ‘incredible’ and said that the team felt ‘privileged’ to be playing in Bath. Even after collapsing during her critical final match, she too came away undefeated.
The crowd’s remarkable support was a fantastic sign for women’s tennis. A particularly touching moment was their roaring applause for Hungary’s Anna Bondar after her hard-fought match with Konta. At the age of only 21, she put up an astonishing three set fight against the former world number 4.
The matches took place on two of the STV’s indoor tennis courts with the stands decorated in Union Jacks. The Centre Court could host as many as 1,700 fans while Court One held up to 300.
A spotlight was also placed on Team Bath’s own tennis programme. The centre supports players from beginner level to professional standard and is home to Local and Regional Performance Development Centres. The facilities and exceptional quality of coaching attract players from all across the South West.
Umpires and line judges were provided by the Lawn Tennis Association while a team of local people, including students, volunteered to help run the event. Ball crew duties fell to schoolchildren from the Bath area and over 100 had the opportunity to participate in tennis sessions led by the GB team and Judy Murray.
The tournament was televised by BT Sport who covered all the GB matches and there was a strong interest from local and national press in following the event.
The Fed Cup was a huge opportunity to showcase top level women’s tennis at the University of Bath, while the STV’s facilities proved capable of dealing with the demands of such an event. Its success provides exciting prospects for Bath hosting similar events in the future.