Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cheers for the red, white and blue--and I don't mean the USA

I mean Strasbourg, where the Fed Cup World Group final will be played this weekend between France and defending champion Czech Republic. Why France chose an indoor hard court for this contest is a mystery, as it plays right to the strengths of Petra Kvitova. Captain Amelie Mauresmo is no fool, however, so one assumes there was a good reason.

The French team is a strong one, with both Caroline Garcia and Kiki Mladenovic always on call to do double duty, if needed. Alize Cornet should be part of the team's strength, but she has a history of poor Fed Cup performance. That's odd, too, because Fed Cup brings out the kind of big-crowd, spirited competition upon which Cornet generally thrives.

Joining Garcia, Mladenovic and Cornet on the team will be Pauline Parmentier. Garcia and Mladenovic, the 2016 French Open champions, recently won the WTA's Doubles Team of the Year award.

World number 6 Karolina Pliskova and world number 11 Petra Kvitova lead the Czech team, and are joined by Barbora Strycova and Lucie Hradecka. Pliskova has carried the team this year, with a lot of help from Strycova. And while Kvitova's recent Fed Cup exploits have been nothing like her former ones, the final is very likely to feature Scary Petra, fresh from a win in Zuhai, and apparently feeling pretty good about her game.

Do the French have a chance? Yes, but only if Kvitova has a collapse. And even then, Kvitova would have to lose both of her singles rubbers. Of course, Pliskova could lose a singles rubber. She's 1-1 against the tricky (and sometimes very good-serving) Mladenovic, and 1-1 against Garcia (one of those losses was on clay). Should the final somehow wind up in a doubles decider, it would be a thrilling one, pitting Garcia and Mladenovic against Pliskova and Strycova, most likely.

The Czech Republic won Fed Cup in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.

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