The 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers are set to take place this weekend, as 18 nations battle it out on April 14 and 15 for a spot in the finals.
The nine winning teams from the Qualifiers will join the reigning champions Switzerland and runners-up Australia in the finals, which will take place from Nov. 7-12. One additional wild-card team will also be announced. Follow all the action on the Billie Jean Cup website here.
With the Hologic WTA Tour taking the week off, here are the five players to watch this weekend as the sport's most historic national competition gets underway:
Jessica Pegula (USA)
The World No.3 leads a strong squad for No.5-seeded Team USA, which will host Austria in Delray Beach, Florida. Coming off back-to-back semifinal runs in Miami and Charleston, Pegula goes into the Billie Jean King Cup leading the Hologic WTA Tour with 22 wins this season.
Pegula and World No.6 Coco Gauff have been tapped to shoulder the singles load against Austria. Gauff will open the tie on Friday against No.78 Julia Grabher, with Pegula following against No.153 Sinja Kraus. The duo will follow up on Saturday with the reverse singles.
Caroline Garcia (FRA)
The reigning WTA Finals champion Garcia has enjoyed a quietly solid start to the season, having already made two finals in Lyon and Monterrey. But the 29-year-old Frenchwoman has never failed to summon her best when playing for her country.
Alongside Alizé Cornet, Garcia leads No.3-seeded France against last year's Cinderella squad, Great Britain. The World No.5 will open the tie against No.154 Katie Boulter, with No.70 Cornet to face No.138 Harriet Dart. After falling at the qualifying stage last year, France is ready to right its wrongs.
"We are really on a mission this year," Cornet said. "We're really motivated to get to the finals because we missed it last year very much. We're not going to let go of a single point, we're going to try to be intense from start to finish."
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE)
The 2021 French Open champion and World No.12 Krejcikova will get her first taste of the clay this season when she leads the dynastic Czech Republic against Ukraine. With Ukraine unable to host the tie due to the ongoing war, the tie will be played on outdoor clay in Antalya, Turkey.
Krejcikova tops a strong Czech squad that includes the resurgent Karolina Muchova and Marketa Vondrousova, as well as rising teenage star Linda Noskova. Vondrousova kicks off the tie against Ukraine's No.1 Marta Kostyuk, with Krejcikova following against Katarina Zavatska. Krejcikova is bidding for her first singles win at Billie Jean King Cup.
"It's definitely still a very new thing for me but I think I've gained a lot of experience since the last time I played in 2021," Krejcikova said. "I'm really looking forward to leading the team and I hope the young girls that we have here can learn a little bit more and lead the team in the future."
Magda Linette (POL)
The Australian Open semifinalist has rediscovered the form that fueled her surprise run in January, coming off back-to-back Round of 16 showings in Miami and Charleston. With World No.1 Iga Swiatek forced to miss the tie with an injury, the pressure now falls to Linette to lead the charge against a Kazakhstan team led by Indian Wells champion and World No.7 Elena Rybakina.
Playing on an indoor clay court in Astana, Linette will face Yulia Putintseva on Friday and Rybakina on Saturday. Two wins for Linette would give Poland, at minimum, a chance to decide the tie in doubles.
Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA)
Brazil might be the unseeded team when they take on No.7 Germany at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart, but Beatriz Haddad Maia's squad has a strong chance to pull off the upset. No.14 Haddad Maia is the only Top 60 singles player chosen for the tie and, if the tie goes to a deciding doubles, Luisa Stefani is ready to go.
"The No.1 for Brazil is an incredible player and can be good for three points, so our job is to not allow her to make these points," German captain Rainer Schuettler said.
Haddad Maia will face Anna-Lena Friedsam on Friday. Tatjana Maria, fresh off her title defense in Bogota last weekend, will lead the German side in singles.