Anne Keothavong challenges Fed Cup team to emulate Davis Cup success

Anne Keothavong (R) has taken over from Judy Murray as Great Britain's Fed Cup captain. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images for LTA)

Anne Keothavong sees no reason why Great Britain's Fed Cup team can't emulate the exploits of the Davis Cup stars.

The profile of the women's team competition has always been significantly lower than Davis Cup and the success of Britain's men has only accentuated the divide.

While Andy Murray and co. captured the imagination of the nation with their surprise run to the title in 2015, the Fed Cup team have spent the last 24 years trying to get out of the dreaded Europe/Africa Zone.

The fixtures are played in a round-robin format during a single week every February, this time in Tallinn, Estonia starting on Wednesday, with teams needing to win three or four matches to earn the chance to play off for a spot in World Group II.

Judy Murray resigned as captain last year immensely frustrated at Britain's failure to progress, and now it is Keothavong's turn.

The 33-year-old -- who played in 39 ties for Britain between 2001 and 2013 -- told Press Association Sport: "The format doesn't lend itself to anything but it is what it is and we have to accept that.

"We'll be one of 14 teams in Tallinn and only two will come out. In the past 15 years or so we've only managed to do that twice so that tells you how tough it's been.

"But there's no reason we can't get out of this group again and aim for a tie in April and have something to look forward to."

Britain have been drawn in a group with Turkey, Latvia and Portugal, who between them boast only two top-100 players.

Keothavong has the luxury Murray never had of being able to call on Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and Laura Robson at the same time.

Murray was privately furious when Konta pulled out last year and, with the 26-year-old now ranked 10th in the world, Britain have every reason to aim high.

A play-off against Croatia -- who can call on Ana Konjuh and Donna Vekic -- appears to be the only potential spanner in the works.

Under Murray, Britain reached the World Group II play-offs in 2012 and 2013 but lost to Sweden and Argentina, respectively, sending them back to square one.

Both of those ties were away, which denied Britain's women the chance to experience a home tie and a Davis Cup-style atmosphere.

Should they make it into World Group II, with the eventual goal the eight-team World Group, home and away ties would become standard.

And Keothavong believes the popularity of Konta, Watson and Robson would see them generate similar interest to Davis Cup.

She said: "We've got great personalities in the team. I think each of them individually appeal to different people. For the first time ever we've got a top-10 player so that in itself gives the team a different feel.

"We all know what she's capable of but Laura and Heather have also had big wins and they're still very young. Hopefully Jo's success and the way she goes about it will inspire the other girls. They can definitely learn a lot from her.

"There's only eight teams in the Fed Cup World Group whereas Davis Cup has 16 so, with the format, it will take us a few years to get there, should we get there. But we can certainly put women's tennis on the map in this country."

Konta -- fresh from her second WTA Tour title in Sydney and a run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open -- is excited by the prospect of emulating the Davis Cup team, although she stopped short of committing to playing in April.

"What they achieved was something that was incredibly special, not just for the tennis community but for the whole sporting community in this country," said Konta.

"If we ever are in the position to achieve something like that, that would obviously be incredible, but it's a long road ahead and we've got to take it one step at a time.

"We've had a strong team pretty much every year. By no means is it simple."

Keothavong has another source of inspiration this week in her former team-mate and friend Elena Baltacha, who tragically died from cancer in 2014.

"She's still someone I miss a lot and think about," said Keothavong.

"I'm sure if she was around she would have been great in this role and I'm sure she would have loved the opportunity to be part of Fed Cup again.

"There is a strong part of me that felt before I accepted this job, I obliged to do things in perhaps the way she would have.

"It certainly brings back a lot of memories - the passion she brought onto a tennis court and the fun we had."