Billie Jean King Cup: Japan's home tie vs Ukraine shifted out due to COVID

The number of coronavirus cases in Japan is relatively low compared to other countries such as the US but some areas are still under a state of emergency.

Tennis sensation Naomi Osaka (in pic) and her Japan team will now play Elina Svitolina's Ukraine away in the 2021 Billie Jean King Cup, previously known as the Fed Cup (File Photo).   -  REUTERS

Japanese fans will miss out on the chance to see Naomi Osaka in action at home next month after their Billie Jean King Cup playoff tie against Ukraine was shifted out of the country due to the coronavirus pandemic situation.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Japan is relatively low compared to other countries such as the United States but some areas are still under a state of emergency, with the country experiencing a third wave of the pandemic.

Miki-City, in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan, was scheduled to host the April 16-17 tie on an indoor hard court but the Billie Jean King Cup committee voted to shift it to Ukraine.

"While the state of emergency has recently been lifted in the region, it could not be guaranteed that exemptions to travel restrictions for international athletes will be reinstated in time for the tie in April," the International Tennis Federation, which is in charge of event, said on Monday.

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"The Committee made this decision to allow Ukraine enough time to prepare to host the tie."

The tie will now be played on clay at the Elite Tennis Club, Chornomorsk, the ITF and the Ukrainian Tennis Federation said, adding that the next two meetings between the countries will take place in Japan due to Monday's decision.

The inaugural 12-nation finals of the revamped Fed Cup was initially scheduled to be held in March 2020 before the pandemic forced authorities to put it back a year.

Last month the ITF said that the finals, which was scheduled to be held from April 13-18 in Budapest, had been postponed again due to COVID-19 protocols in Hungary.

Osaka was part of Japan's team that went down tamely to Spain in last year's qualifiers with the former world number one suffering a thrashing at the hands of Sara Sorribes Tormo.

The 23-year-old has since doubled her Grand Slam trophies to four and climbed up to number two in the rankings.

World number five Elina Svitolina is expected to lead the challenge for Ukraine during next month's tie in the women's World Cup of tennis.