WATCH: Collins leveled the Group C tie between the United States and Slovakia at one win apiece when she ousted Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in straight sets.

After a global pandemic prevented the competition formerly known as Fed Cup from making its revamped debut in 2020, this week marks the long-awaited launch of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, playing out at the O2 Arena in Prague.

The ties are simplified from their traditional best-of-five rubbers to a maximum of three matches—two singles and one doubles—but the concept more familiar than it first appears: quite simply, the BJK Cup Finals is what was previously a year’s worth of action taking place in one week, and all in one place.

Despite the ostensibly convenient schedule, the Finals’ proximity to the WTA Finals in Guadalajara had the unfortunate side effect of ruling out several of the game’s biggest names, including Aryna Sabalenka, Paula Badosa, and Garbiñe Muguruza, who all qualified for the Finals earlier this month.

Qualifying took place in before the 2020 lockdowns, resulting in four round robin groups. The winners from each place will advance into the semifinals, from which a winner will be declared. Canada, Belgium, Spain, and the Czech Republic all scored victories on Monday, with even more action unfolding across a busy Tuesday afternoon.

Here’s what you may have missed so far:


Group A: Russia def. Canada, 3-0

Led by established stars Daria Kasatkina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the Russians ultimately made light work of an inspired Canadian team, one that upset France in a deciding doubles rubber on Monday.

After Kasatkina dispatched Carol Zhao, Pavlyuchenkova was made to battle a resurgent Rebecca Marino through three hard-fought sets before clinching victory, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Russia will play France, led by Fiona Ferro and Alizé Cornet, on Wednesday in the hopes of guaranteeing a semifinal berth.

Group B: Australia def. Belgium, 2-1

Australia caused the upset of the day over a Belgian team well-flanked by Elise Mertens and Greet Minnen.

Off the tour nearly all season to rehab an Achilles injury, Daria Gavrilova set the tone with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 win over Minnen, but it was Storm Sanders who pulled off the biggest surprise when she rallied from a set down to drop a final set bagel on Mertens, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-0.

In pole position to nab a semifinal spot, the Aussies next will take on Belarus, who fell to the Belgians on Monday, 2-1.


Group C: Slovakia def. United States, 2-1

The United States’ BJK Cup debut hit an early snag when an on-fire Shelby Rogers found herself cooled off by Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-4, 6-4. Rogers is fresh off a quarterfinal finish at the BNP Paribas Open and enjoyed a stunning upset of world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty at the US Open, but couldn’t turn the tide against Kuzmova, a former world No. 43.

In a precarious position coming into her singles rubber, Danielle Collins played with impressive precision to level the tie with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

A titanic tie came down to a match tie-break in the deciding doubles, and Kuzmova partnered Tereza Mihalikova to survive Caroline Dolehide and CoCo Vandeweghe, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 12-10, saving a match point in the Sudden Death.

Group D: Switzerland def. Germany, 2-0

Switzerland and Germany fielded two of the strongest teams for this week, setting the stage for a final-worthy thriller between Belinda Bencic and Angelique Kerber. Despite Kerber’s win over Barbora Krejcikova, the Germans narrowly fell to perennial champions in the Czech Republic on Monday, and so needed a strong result on Tuesday to keep their semifinal hopes alive.

Those hopes were dashed when Wimbledon quarterfinalist Viktorija Golubic knocked out Andrea Petkovic and Bencic rallied from a set down to outlast Kerber, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.

In what could be the most exciting tie of the week, the Czechs and Swiss will now face off in a winner-take-all tie to reach the final four.