The stage is set! 🇧🇾 Belarus will host 🇺🇸 USA in the 2017 #FedCupFinal on 11-12 November! Who's excited? pic.twitter.com/TxQpP6TLLa— Fed Cup (@FedCup) April 23, 2017
Each of those four women--all absent, for one reason or the other--from the 2017 Fed Cup World Group semifinals, has led her team to victory or has brought the victory in at the last moment. With none of them available this time, the outlook wasn't that good for the defending champions. And sure enough, they lost to team USA. Yet even the team that captain Petr Pala managed to scrape together was able to extend the semifinal to a fifth rubber. Such is the magic of Czech tennis.
In the end, though, the ad hoc doubles of team of Katerina Siniakova and Krisyna Pliskova was no match for the Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe, who beat them 6-2, 6-3. The Czech team, in fact, didn't have much of a chance against doubles world number 1 Mattek-Sands and the formidable Vandeweghe.
Vandeweghe won all three of her rubbers, showing again that she thrives in a Fed Cup atmosphere. In singles, she defeated both Siniakova and new teen star Marketa Vandrousova. Her teammates didn't do as well. Shelby Rogers, who reached the quarterfinals in Charleston, was expected to do well on the green clay in Florida, but she lost in straight sets to Siniakova. And Lauren Davis, subbed in on Sunday, lost in straight sets to Vondrousova.
The Czech team won the Fed Cup championship in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and also in 2011 and 2012.
The USA's opponent in the final will be Belarus. Team Belarus reached the Fed Cup final for the first time in history, and they did it without Vika Azarenka (such a wonderfully typical Fed Cup kind of story). Switzerland's Victorija Golubic, who--only a year ago--was a breakout star in Fed Cup, lost both of her singles rubbers. And Timea Bacsinszky won only one of her singles rubbers; she defeated Aryna Sabalenka.
Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who defeated Dutch Fed Cup Beast Kiki Bertens in the February tie, took it to Bacsinszky this time (and she also defeated Golubic). It was a 3-1 victory for Belarus.
In the World Group Play-Offs:
France def. Spain (that was Julia Goerges who won both her singles rubbers!)
Belgium def. Russia
Germany def. Ukraine
Netherlands def. Slovakia (and Kiki has her mojo back)
Here are the World Group II Play-Off results:
Italy def. Chinese Taipei
Australia def. Serbia
Romania def. Great Britain
Canada def. Kazakhstan
.@Simona_Halep's two wins keep 🇷🇴 in @FedCup World Group II--> https://t.co/KHSLdlv948 pic.twitter.com/eeRRuGZ9Tr— WTA (@WTA) April 23, 2017
Once again, there was drama, and not the good kind. Romanian Fed Cup captain, Ilie Nastase, already known in Fed Cup circles for insulting his best player, Simona Halep, took it to a new level this week. For starters, he made a racist comment about Serena Williams, then insulted the journalist who reported the comment. Then he hit on (including an unwanted touch) Great Britain's Fed Cup captain, Anne Keeothavong.
That should have been enough, but left to his own judgment, Nastase had plenty of abuse left in him. During Romanian Sorana Cirstea's Fed Cup singles rubber against Great Britain's Jo Konta, the Romanian Fed Cup captain became extremely verbally abusive (in a misogynistic way, of course) to Konta, the chair umpire and--of course--Captain Keeothavong. Konta was reduced to tears, and Nastase was escorted off of the grounds by security. He is provisionally banned from ITF events, pending an investigation.
The final will be played in November in Belarus, and it is expected that Vika Azarenka will be a participant. Azarenka has announced that she intends to return to the tour this summer.