Australia to replace suspended Russian team in Billie Jean King Cup Finals

(Reuters) – Australia will replace the suspended Russian team for the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, governing body International Tennis Federation (ITF) said on Monday.

Russia was banned from defending its Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup titles following its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Belarus, a key staging area for the invasion, which Russia says is a “special operation”, has also been banned from the international team competitions.The Australian team were the highest ranked side among the losing semi-finalists in 2021 and will take Russia’s automatic spot in this year’s Finals of the tournament formerly known as the Fed Cup.

Slovakia, who were scheduled to play Australia in next month’s qualifiers for the women’s team event, will get a bye and also advance directly to the 2022 Finals, scheduled to be held in November.

Also advancing to the Finals – for which the host country has yet to be named – will be Belgium, after its side received a walkover in the qualifiers due to Belarus’ suspension.

The three sides will be joined by the host, last year’s runner-up Switzerland and the remaining seven winners of the qualifiers on April 15-16.

In the men’s Davis Cup, also won last year by a Russian team led by top-ranked Daniil Medvedev, Serbia was awarded the automatic spot as the highest-ranked losing semi-finalist.

A wild card for the 2022 Finals that was previously awarded to Serbia will be handed to one of the 12 nations knocked out in the qualifiers earlier this month.

The 12 winning teams from the qualifiers, 2021 finalists Croatia and wild card Britain are the other confirmed sides for the 2022 Finals, which will see 16 nations competing in four groups across four cities from Sept. 14-18.

The top eight teams will advance to the knockout stages, which will serve as the season-ending event on the men’s tennis calendar and will be held from Nov. 23-27 in a fifth host city.

The host cities for the Davis Cup competition also have not yet been named.