Draw made for 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier between the U.S. and Austria
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Nice to meet you: Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula are slated for their first-ever matches against Austrians Julia Grabher and Sinja Kraus, respectively, to kick off this weekend's Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier at the Delray Beach Tennis Center.
The official draw for the two-day, five-match tie was made on Thursday, and Gauff, the U.S.'s No. 2 player for this tie, will open Friday's play against Austrian No. 1 Grabher, a 26-year-old ranked world No. 78, with top-ranked American Pegula to follow against Austrian No. 2 Kraus, a 20-year-old ranked No. 153. Pegula will then face Grabher to begin Friday's play, with Gauff to face Kraus; if necessary, a doubles match between Danielle Collins and Caty McNally, and Kraus and Melanie Klaffner, will close the tie.
The first team to win three matches will win the tie and advance to November's Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals. An abridged schedule for Saturday may be announced if and when one team wins the first three matches.
Read more at usta.com: Gauff, Pegula lead U.S. in pursuit of 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals
While a learning curve could be expected when they first step on the court, the top-ranked Americans said afterwards that it doesn't take long to get in a groove against an unfamiliar opponent.
"I think for me it's pretty quick. Maybe a couple of games," Pegula said. "Even having the four- to five-minute warmup, you get a feel for their ball really quickly. It depends on the courts, the conditions, how they're playing, what kind of suits each other's games. I think we'll adjust pretty fast."
Gauff agreed, and added that she was going to use all the pre-match resources available to her to prepare.
"I'm going to watch a little bit of film, so I think I can kind of visualize that based off the watching," she said.
- BJK Cup draw
- BJK Cup draw
- BJK Cup draw
Though the heavy underdogs for this tie, the Austrians have worked hard to get an opportunity to again show their talents against one of the strongest nations in women's tennis: Austria won promotion to this round with a thrilling 3-2 win against Latvia last November, after finishing in fifth place in the Europe/Africa Group I.
This weekend marks the first time since 2008 that Austria features in the highest tier of the competition.
"It's very tough to play in our zone: so many matches, so many countries in one week," Austrian captain Marion Maruska, a former Top 50 player, said. "There are very good countries and very tough players there. It was a great effort, what the whole team did to come to this stage."
But this won't be the first time that Maruska's been in this position against the U.S. in this event. In 2002, she was on the Austrian team that shocked the U.S., then captained by Billie Jean King herself, in the first round—one of two wins for Austria in the nine matches played between the two countries since they first met in 1977.
"I have a lot of memories, of course. We were the complete underdogs," she said. "Some of our players couldn't play in that week. We were complete underdogs. Only played against Top 10 players. We were talking about first for fun, then it came true, especially after the first day when we were up 2-Love. ... It was a big surprise. The Austrians, the press, nobody came because everybody thought we were going to lose anyway. Afterwards, it was a big surprise when we came back [home]."
A win for the visitors on Delray's hard courts would likely make similar waves 21 years later, but their two top players come into this tie in good form after clay-court exploits last week: Grabher reached the third round of the WTA 500 event in Charleston, S.C., which included a win over a Top 30 player in China's Zhang Shuai, while Kraus scored her first-ever WTA main-draw win in Bogota, Colombia.
"I think we're going to try to focus on ourselves, try our best, have fun on the court," Kraus said. "As a team, we're a great team, having each other's backs. It's going to be a great experience for all of us."
The 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier between the U.S. and Austria will air live on Tennis Channel on both Friday and Saturday. Play begins at 6 p.m. EDT Friday and 2 p.m. EDT on Saturday. For more from the tie, visit the USTA's Billie Jean King Cup homepage.