Photo: Tennis FoundationMartin Legner (AUT)
Sixteen teams line up for this week’s BNP Paribas World Team Cup European Qualification, which begins on Tuesday in Vilamoura, Portugal.
With three of the four regional qualification events for the ITF’s flagship wheelchair tennis team event completed, Tanzania’s men’s team and Kenya’s women’s team, Thailand’s men’s team and Brazil’s men’s and women’s teams have already booked their places at the 2017 BNP Paribas World Team Cup, which will be held in Alghero, Sardinia, Italy, from 1-7 May.
Host nation Portugal is one of 13 teams entered for the men’s event in Vilamoura, which will begin with teams contesting four round-robin pools.
Greece won the European Qualification for the third time in four years in 2016, beating Israel in the final for the second time in four years. The same players are part of both teams again this year.
The likes of former world Top 3 ranked players Tadeusz Kruszelnicki and Martin Legner are among those who will be in Portugal to represent Poland and Austria, respectively. Both players and their nations have top-three finishes in the World Team Cup in past years.
Kruszelnicki completed his preparations for this week’s qualification event by beating Legner in the men’s singles final at the Vilamoura Open, an ITF Futures Series event on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, over the weekend.
Hungary’s team also includes another vastly experienced player in Laszlo Farkas, who will hope to inspire his country to improve on third place at the European Qualification in 2016, when Croatia finished fifth.
Portugal finished seventh last year, beating Estonia in their last play-off tie of the week and both teams line-up once again.
Three teams will bid to qualify for the women’s World Group at the 2017 BNP Paribas World Team Cup, with Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland having all taken part in the European Qualification Event in Turkey in 2016.
The three nations will play each other in one round-robin group, with the two top nations at the end of the round-robin phase of the competition going forward to play each other again in the final.
Twelve months ago Belgium was the highest placed of the three nations, finishing third, while Switzerland and Sweden met in the play-off for fifth place. Switzerland came out on top after winning the deciding doubles rubber.
Sofie Cox and Els Verhoeven, who steered Belgium to third place in 2016, return for this year’s qualification event in Portugal. Meanwhile, Gabriela Buehler and Nalani Buob, who combined last year to win Switzerland’s doubles rubber in the fifth place play-off, also represent their country this year.
However, this time Switzerland can also draw on the experience of former Paralympic doubles bronze medallist and former World Team Cup finalist Karin Suter.
Rebecka Bellander and Sanna Klindt are also part of Sweden’s team again this year as Sweden aims to improve on sixth place in 2016.
Bellander goes into the BNP Paribas World Team Cup European Qualification boosted by victory in the women’s singles at the Vilamoura Open over the weekend, where she also won the women’s doubles partnering Klindt.