Monday, February 5, 2018

Czech super-team on track for Fed Cup

Former Fed Cup champion Czech Republic has put together its A team for this weekend's tie. Of course, when it comes to Czech Republic, the B team can dominate, too and the C team isn't anything to be dismissed. This weekend, playing on an indoor court in Prague, the Czech team will face World Group opponent Switzerland.

Playing for the Czechs will be Petra Kvitova, the queen of indoor courts, who is fresh off of her championship performance in St. Petersburg, and Karolina Pliskova, Lucie Safarova, and Barbora Strycova. It doesn't get much better than that. Playing for Switzerland will be Timea Bacsinzky--just back from an injury and rehab absence--Belinda Bencic, Victorija Golubic, and Jill Teichmann. Bacsinszky and Bencic add danger to this team, and Golubic has been known to ruin the Fed Cup hopes of some big stars.

World Group defending champion Team USA also has a very strong team. Venus and Serena Williams are on it, as well as CoCo Vandewegh and Australian Open stand-out Lauren Davis. The USA will play Netherlands, whose team does not include its country's most notable player, Kiki Bertens. It does include Richel Hogenkamp, who--like Golubic--has been known to rise to the occasion in Fed Cup play. Also playing for Netherlands are Arantxa Rus, Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs. The tie will take place on an indoor court in Asheville, North Carolina.

Belarus and Germany will play on an indoor court in Minsk. There's no Vika Azarenka on the Belarus team, but there are two dangerous Fed Cup upstarts: Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Aryna Sabalenka, who will be joined by Vera Lapko and Lidziya Marozava. The Germans don't have Angie Kerber, nor do they have Fed Cup star Andrea Petkovic or Julia Goerges. It's definitely not an A team. Playing for Germany will be Tatjana Maria, Antonia Lottner, Anna-Lena Friedsam, and doubles specialist Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

Finally, in World Cup play, France and Belgium will play on an indoor hard court in La Roche--sur-Yon, France. The resurgent Kiki Mladenovic will lead the French team, whose members include Pauline Parmentier and Armandine Hesse (perhaps a fourth will be added later). Belgium's team is made up of the clearly dangerous Australian Open star Elise Mertens, Kirsten Flipkens, Alison Van Uytvanck, and Ysaline Bonaventure. 

Here is the World Group II draw:

Slovakia vs. Russia (in Slovakia)
Romania vs. Canada (in Romania)
Australia vs. Ukraine (in Australia)
Italy vs. Spain (in Italy)

Magda Rybarikova will lead the Slovak team, and--of note--Viktoria Kuzmova will join her. Also of note--the "who knows what may happen?" pair of Jana Cepelova and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova will also play for Slovakia. And of further note--young Anastasia Potapova will be on the Russian team.

Romania's team is strong--world number 2 Simona Halep will be joined by Irina-Camelia Begu, Sorana Cirstea, and Raluca Olaru. Canada has doubles strength in Gabriela Dabrowski.

Australia's team includes Ash Barty, Dasha Gavrilova and Casey Dellacqua, and Ukraine's team does not include Elina Svitolina and Lesia Tsurenko.

Fighting Italian (there are still a few of them around) Sara Errani will lead Italy's team, and Spain's team will be led by Carla Suarez Navarro. Also playing for Spain (seems like old times) will be Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, who has notable doubles skills. Absent from the team is Garbine Muguruza.

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