The CNMI’s Carol Lee and her Pacific Oceania teammates have a tough first round opponent in China, as the 2019 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, Asia/Oceania Zone Group I kicks off today in Astana, Kazakhstan.
China is favored to win the tournament where a slot to the World Group II playoffs is at stake. The frontrunners are in Pool B with Pacific Oceania, South Korea, and Indonesia, while Pool A has the host country, India, and Thailand.
The Chinese would be playing without world No. 21 Wang Qiang, but still have two players in the Top 100 (Women’s Tennis Association) in No. 40 Shuai Zhang and No. 42 Saisai Zheng plus No. 188 Shuai Peng, No. 550 Zhaoxuan Yang, and No. 18 (doubles) YiFan Xu. Completing the China squad is non-playing captain Wei-Guang Yang.
The favored team will go up against Pacific Oceania today at the National Tennis Centre with the former bannered by world No. 342 Abigail Tere-Apisah of Papua New Guinea. Tere-Apisah is the only active pro player on the crew of Pacific Oceania captain and Tahiti’s Gilles De Gouy. Steffi Carruthers of Samoa played in the Fed Cup Group II tie last year, but last competed in the pro ranks in 2017, while PNG’s Violet Apisah just graduated from the ITF Juniors and had her last event in September during the US Open Juniors. Lee is still playing in the ITF Juniors Circuit and the youngest member of the team at 17. The Commonwealth player started the 2019 with an appearance in the main draw of the Australian Open Juniors in Melbourne.
After today’s game (two singles and one doubles), Lee and company will face South Korea tomorrow, while their last match in the pool is against Indonesia. South Korea’s roster is made up of players Na-Lae Han, Su Jeong Jang, Sunam Jeong, and Na Ri Kim, and captain Young-Ja Choi, while Indonesia has Beatrice Gumulya, Aldila Sutjadi, Deria Nur Haliza, Jessy Rompies, and captain Deddy Tedjamukti.
The top finisher in each pool will battle for the ticket to the World Group II playoffs that will take place in April, while the third placers will also square off to determine which nation will stay in the zone’s Group I. The loser will be relegated to Group II along with the fourth finisher in Pool B.