The GB Fed Cup team left Heathrow for Israel with hopes of a flying start in the round-robin stage of their Europe/Africa Zone Group I qualifying campaign.

The GB team – Heather Watson, Laura Robson, Anne Keothavong, Elena Baltacha, and Australia-born debutante Johanna Konta – made it through this stage 12 months ago before losing to Sweden in the play-off round.

The Judy Murray-led GB team are bidding to be the first to qualify for the World Group since 1995.

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In Watson and Robson, two British women are in the world top 50 for the first time in 16 years, the British side are ranked 18th in the Fed Cup standings, and are seeded to qualify from Pool B, which also includes Portugal, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

If they are to prevail at the Municipal Stadium in Eilat, they will have to silence a Portugal team ranked 32nd, which includes Michelle Larcher de Brito, a 20-year-old of Angolan extraction who won the Orange Bowl as a junior and was taught by Nick Bollettieri.

With a singles ranking of 127 – having been as high as 76 – she possesses one of the loudest grunts in the game, about which she is unrepentant.

"Nobody can tell me to stop grunting," she has said. "Tennis is an individual sport. If they have to fine me, go ahead, because I'd rather get fined than lose a match because I had to stop grunting."

Baltacha, who is recuperating from injury, will not play, while Konta, who is included after a 2012 season in which she broke into the world's top 150 for the first time, is looking forward to working under the captain.

"Judy's great," said Konta. "I've known her for a number of years, but only really started speaking to her at Wimbledon last year. She's always sending e-mails congratulating me; it is good."

The British team begin their campaign on Wednesday and should they make it through the group, they are slated to play the winning team from Pool D (Slovenia, the Netherlands, Bulgaria or Luxembourg), in a bid to be one of two teams promoted in the World Group II play-offs.