EILAT, Israel - Even without their new star Johanna Konta, Great Britain had few problems securing a place in this weekend's Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group I promotion play-offs.
Singles victories for Heather Watson and Katie Swan helped Britain to a 2-1 win over Georgia in their final Group B outing. The result sets up a meeting with Belgium on Saturday to determine which nation will advance to the World Group II play-offs this spring.
In the absence of some of Britain's more experienced campaigners, most notably Australian Open semifinalist Konta, 16-year-old Swann has stepped up magnificently, easing past Georgian No.2 Ekaterine Gorgodze, 6-3, 6-3, for her second win of the week. Watson then put the tie beyond Georgia's reach by swatting aside Sofia Shapatava, 6-2, 6-0, in an hour.
"I wouldn't call it easy at all, I don't think any match is easy, I only have to focus 100% and be prepared for anything," Watson said.
Sterner tests lie ahead, in the shape of a talented young Belgium side, which extended their perfect record this week with a 3-0 success over Bulgaria.
In the end it was Van Uytvanck that prevailed, edging a see-saw opening set before cantering through the second, wrapping up an impressive 6-4, 6-2 victory with an ace.
"I think they did a great job. They all have a little bit of experience now in Fed Cup, only one rookie this year," Belgium captain Ann Devries said. "Everybody wants to go for it, everybody wants to win, and not just the players who are playing but everyone in the team."
The other play-off at Eilat's Municipal Tennis Centre will see the Ukraine take on home nation Israel.
While Great Britain and Belgium are battling it out to climb another rung on the Fed Cup ladder, over in Europe the heavyweights will duke it out for a spot in the World Group semifinals.
In Leipzig, Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber is hoping to inspire Germany to the semifinals for a third straight year when they take on neighbors Switzerland. Friday's draw paired Kerber with Timea Bacsinszky, while in the opening rubber Andrea Petkovic takes on Swiss No.1 Belinda Bencic.
In Cluj, Romania make their return to the World Group when they meet defending champions Czech Republic. Romania, who last appeared at this stage in 1992, will be lead by Simona Halep, but face an uphill battle against the nine-time champions. Halep postponed nasal surgery to lead the home nation and opens the weekend against Karolina Pliskova. Petra Kvitova and Monica Niculescu will meet in Saturday's second singles rubber.
The other two ties see 2008 champions Russia host the Netherlands, in Moscow, and Italy travel to Marseille to take on France.