In this article, for every tie there will be the nominations, venue, background about the tie and the players and then the predictions of me and my fellow writers here at Ubitennis.net
World Group Semifinals
Czech Republic – Switzerland
Nominations: Czech Republic has to play the tie without their Top 2 players, Kvitova and Safarova. With these limitations, the team of Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Strycova, Denisa Allertova and Lucie Hradecka was nominated. The Swiss were also weakened, by Belinda Bencic. However Switzerland lacks the depth of players that Czech Republic has. The team right now is Timea Bacsinszky, Viktorija Golubic and Martina Hingis, with the fourth player yet to be nominated.
Venue: This tie will be played in Lucerne, Switzerland, on Hard court (Rebound Ace), Indoor
Background: The Swiss seemed to be the favorites until the withdrawal of Bencic, having two Top 20 players. Now it seems that the Swiss No. 2 will be World No. 129 Viktorija Golubic. The decision to put the tie on an indoor hard court might seem a bit illogical, as next week the tour will move on to clay, and Bacsinszky has had better results on clay then on hard courts. Both Pliskova and Strycova prefer hard courts over clay, which makes the choice of surface even more absurd. Martina Hingis has not confirmed nor denied making another singles comeback for Fed Cup, like against Poland last year.
Me: On Saturday I predict Pliskova to defeat Golubic easily and for Bacsinszky to take the win over Strycova in 3 tough sets. Day 2 will be Pliskova getting her first win over Bacsinszky, and for Strycova to seal the deal against Golubic. The Czechs will advance to the finals 3-1.
Adam Addicott: Czech Republic wins.
Bruno Bergareche: With everyone available and playing at home I would have backed Switzerland but with Bencic out injured I think Czech Republic are marginal favourites.
Diego Sampaolo: Czech Republic will continue its proud tradition and qualify for the final, as Switzerland will play without Belinda Bencic.
France – Netherlands
Nominations: France is bringing their best team to the tie, getting all of their Top 50 players, Kristina Mladenovic, Caroline Garcia and Alize Cornet. Pauline Parmentier will be completing the team. Their opponents are also bringing their best. The surprise semifinalists of Netherlands are bringing their only Top 100 player Kiki Bertens. As for the remaining players Richel Hogenkamp, Cindy Burger and Arantxa Rus, any of them could play as the Dutch No. 2 player.
Venue: This tie will be played on indoor clay in Trélazé, France
Background: Netherlands have been surprising everyone in Fed Cup over the past 2 years, first getting into World Group, and now outing Russia to make the semifinals. The Dutch always get up for the Fed Cup ties and that’s why France should not underestimate them. Especially because none of their Top 3 players are not in a good form.
Me: I believe that Netherlands will be able to pull of the upset. All Bertens, Hogenkamp and Rus are pretty good clay-courters, and I think that they’ll be able to get two wins on Day 1. On Day 2 I expect Mladenovic to beat Bertens, but then for Hogenkamp to finish the tie off against Garcia or Mladenovic. I think that Netherlands will win 3-1 and be the surprise finalist.
Adam Addicott: France win with ease.
Bruno Bergareche: As for the second semifinal, I think Netherlands fairy tale run has to come to an end against one of the most solid teams in France.
Diego Sampaolo: France is the clear favourite against the Netherlands.
World Group Play-Offs
Russia – Belarus
Nominations: Russia will be coming into this without their Top 3 players, not counting Sharapova. Daria Kasatkina and Margarita Gasparyan will most probably play the singles, Elena Vesnina is the doubles specialist on the team, and Elizaveta Kulichkova completes the squad. Belarus had to deal with not having Azarenka on their team, but that is not the case this time. World No. 5 Victoria Azarenka will lead the team of Olga Govortsova, Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Aryna Sabalenka.
Venue: This tie will be played in Moscow on an indoor clay court.
Background: Both No. 1 players of each team had an amazing year, Azarenka winning the ‘Sunshine Double’ and rising to No. 5. Belarus has the Top 10 player, but Russia has the depth in their team, meaning that this compelling tie might be decided in the fifth rubber.
Me: I predict that Azarenka will win both her singles matches, while Gasparyan and Kasatkina beat the Belarus No. 2. I think that the tie will be decided in the doubles. I believe that the team of Kasatkina and Vesnina for Russia will beat the Belarussian team of Azarenka and Govortsova or Sasnovich. Russia will win 3-2.
Adam Addicott: Russia wins
Bruno Bergaracha: Russia wins
Diego Sampaolo: Russia wins
Spain – Italy
Nominations: Spain is coming into the tie with both of their best players, Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro. Sara Sorribes Tormo will come in play in case of an injury, and Anabel Medina Garrigues is the doubles specialist of the team. Italy also got their top two players, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani. Since Camila Giorgi refused to attend the tie, Karin Knapp and Francesca Schiavone are in the team.
Venue: This tie will be played in Lleida, Span on an outdoor hard court.
Background: Carla Suarez Navarro and Roberta Vinci had splendid season so far, so it will be very interesting to see those two play each other and how the match goes. Suarez Navarro is also tied to Sara Errani, whom she played doubles with this year so far, so something to look for in their match, if they play each other, will be the chemistry between them throughout the match, the post-match handshake etc.
Me: I predict Spain to roll through Italy this tie, winning the first three rubbers. After 3-0 the dead rubber doubles will be a coin flip. Spain will win 3-0.
Adam Addicott: Spain wins.
Bruno Bergaracha: I hope Spain wills, despite that upsetting a couple of people here at Ubitennis.
Diego Sampaolo: Spain wins.
Romania – Germany
Nominations: Both teams seem to have brought all the players the captains wanted to this tie, just confirming the quality of it. Romania will be led by World No. 6 Simona Halep, Monica Niculescu and Irina-Camelia Begu are going to bring their best to deserve the No. 2 spot on the team. Alexandra Dulgheru will be completing the team. Barbara Rittner also brought the best German players for the tie. Angelique Kerber is the clear No. 1, Andrea Petkovic will most probably be No. 2. Annika Beck and Julia Goerges are also available on the team.
Venue: Romania selected the same venue in Cluj as against Czech Republic. Once again it will be played on indoor clay.
Background: Simona Halep didn’t reach her heights this season, and wasn’t very impressive thus far. Kerber has had her ups and downs. Won the Australian Open and reached semifinals of Miami, but lost to Saisai Zheng and Denisa Allertova this year. Kerber had to retire from Charleston due to viral illness, so we will see if and how she recovered from it.
Me: I feel that this tie could really go either way, Kerber has had a better year, but Halep has the home advantage and the advantage of the surface. Andrea Petkovic, Annika Beck, Monica Niculescu and Irina-Camelia Begu are, I think, all at the same level on clay right now, so whichever will go into their matches can win. I feel this match will come down to doubles, in which I predict Romania winning. Romania will win 3-2.
Adam Addicott: Germany wins.
Bruno Bergaracha: I think Romania will edge Germany on clay.
Diego Sampaolo: Germany wins.
Australia – USA
Nominations: Compared to their last tie with Slovakia, Australia now has the advantage of Daria Gavrilova being able to play in Fed Cup, which might prove to be the deciding factor in this tie. Other than Gavrilova there is also Samantha Stosur for the singles, Casey Dellacqua and Arina Rodionova as doubles players. USA didn’t manage to get neither of the Williams’ sisters, nor Sloane Stephens as the tie is played in Australia. Madison Keys will be the No. 1 of the team, Coco Vandeweghe will most probably play as the No. 2. There is also Christina McHale and the World No. 3 in doubles Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
Venue: This tie will be played in the well known Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane. The change from the tournament that is usually played there will be that this tie is going to be played on an outdoor clay court.
Background: This tie seems to be almost ridiculously equal, with Stosur and Keys being the No. 26 and 25, Gavrilova and Vandeweghe being No. 39 and 36, and Dellacqua and Mattek-Sands being the No. 6 and 3 in doubles. Gavrilova seems to be crucial in her debuting tie. Both Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe have their worst results on clay, while Stosur has reached the Roland Garros final in her career and Gavrilova made the semifinal in Madrid last year.
Me: I predict that the score will be 1-1 after Day 1, with Stosur and Keys taking the wins, but on Day 2 it will be the Aussie show with Stosur and Gavrilova getting wins. I predict, unlike my colleagues, that Australia wins 3-1.
Adam Addicott: USA wins.
Bruno Bergaracha: I’m going for a tight USA win in Australia.
Diego Sampaolo: USA wins.
World Group II Play-Offs
In the Play-Offs for World Group II, Serbia without Ivanovic and Jankovic will face strong Belgium led by Wickmayer and Flipkens.
A solid Slovak team of Schmiedlova and Cibulkova in the singles will face a Bouchard-less Canada, without a player in the Top 250 at home.
Poland without the Radwanska sisters and Linette will face Chinese Taipei without Su-Wei Hsieh and Chan sisters. This seems to be the only tie in which the winner is unclear and also the only tie without a Top 100 player playing.
A strong Ukraine team led by Tsurenko and Bondarenko will host Argentina without a Top 200 player on the hard courts.
Captain Benneteau ‘Proud’ After France Seal First Fed Cup For 16 Years
Kristina Mladenovic won both the matches she was involved with to seal the Fed Cup title for France.
France’s Fed Cup captain Julien Benneteau expressed his pride after France edged out Australia 3-2 in the Fed Cup final.
The visitors claimed their first Fed Cup title for 16 years in Perth after Kristina Mladenovic won both of the matches she was involved with.
It all started after Mladenovic produced one of the greatest wins of her career by edging out world number one Ash Barty 2-6 6-4 7-6(1) in the first match of the day.
Both players had convincing wins on day one and it was the Australian who started the strongest, claiming the first set 6-2.
However Mladenovic struck back in the second set with a crucial break at 5-4 as she closed out the set to force a decider.
There was a lot of momentum shifts in the deciding set but eventually the world number 40 dominated the tiebreak to seal a shock win and a 2-1 lead for France.
Australia hit back in the second rubber of the day as Ajla Tomljanovic produced a solid performance to defeat Pauline Parmentier 6-4 7-5.
After a convincing loss in day one, Tomljanovic produced stunning shot-making to redeem herself and score her first Fed Cup win as an Australian.
The deciding rubber was a highly-anticipated doubles match between Ash Barty and Sam Stosur taking on Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.
All four players had a combined total of 13 doubles grand slam titles as Australia had a good start to the match but lacked clinical edge after that.
The French team took advantage as they won the last two games of the opening set and the first two games of the second set.
This allowed them to control the tempo and when Stosur hit a volley long, the celebrations could start as they sealed a 6-4 6-3 win.
After the match, Captain Julien Benneteau expressed his pride at his French side, “I’m the proudest man on the planet right now,” Benneteau claimed.
“I’m so proud of my girls and the team, they deserve it because they fought for a long time for this title. It’s a dream for me. I tried to imagine that at the beginning of the year when I knew that I could have the best team with me on the court. Eight months later, here we are.”
The win means it’s France’s third Fed Cup triumph overall and their first since 2003, with Kristina Mladenovic winning all three of the matches she was involved with.
As for Australia, it was emotional scenes as Barty didn’t seem to have enough in the tank to edge the Aussies over the finish line.
This final also means its the last traditional final as the format will now to change a one-week 12 team contest which will take place next April in Budapest.
Ash Barty And Kristina Mladenovic Power To Victory On Day One At Fed Cup Final
Ash Barty and Kristina Mladenovic produced one-sided victories to keep the score level after day one of the Fed Cup Final.
Ash Barty and Kristina Mladenovic produced dominant displays to keep Australia and France level at the end of day one of the Fed Cup Final.
In front of a sold-out RAC Arena in Perth, Australia were bidding for their first Fed Cup title since 1974 as they took on a reunited French team.
However their bid got off to the worst possible start as a nervy Ajla Tomljanovic was stunned by Kristina Mladenovic in 72 minutes.
Hitting 16 winners, the world number 40 pummelled her way past Tomljanovic to hand the visitors the early advantage.
Though the Australian debutant showed moments of brilliance, they were in patches as Mladenovic produced a stunning performance for the French team.
After the match, the doubles grand slam champion admitted she played the perfect match, “I really did almost a perfect match, I was really in the zone,” Mladenovic said in her on-court interview.
“I love these kind of events — the more the pressure it is, the bigger the pressure it is, the more special is the event. I came out there and I just wanted to win, basically.”
As France held the early lead, the pressure was on world number one Ash Barty to deliver and deliver she did in an equally impressive performance.
A 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Caroline Garcia was exactly what Australia ordered as Barty was ruthless in her dismantling of the French number two.
Eight aces helped Barty power past the world number 45 and the 40 degree temperatures as a mix of variety as well as power was evidence why every rubber the hosts of win this year has involved Barty.
After the 56 minute win the world number one explained how she executed her game-plan, “I think just overall today I executed very well. I made Caro pretty uncomfortable,” Barty said.
“I felt like in the first three or four of my service games I was in control of a lot of the points, and Caro is a player who like court position, she likes to be up in the court. So that was a key factor for me today. And that’s probably the best I’ve returned in a long long time.”
It is now 15 wins in a row for Barty in Fed Cup as she takes on Kristina Mladenovic in a crucial third rubber tomorrow.
Then Caroline Garcia is scheduled to take on Ajla Tomljanovic although both teams could be set to make changes depending on the scenario.
Should the two nations split the singles again then the deciding doubles will see Ash Barty and Sam Stosur take on Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.
Play begins from 3am GMT time tomorrow, in what will be the last day of a traditional Fed Cup Final before the re-formatted version begins next year.
Ash Barty Heads Australia’s Bid To End Their 45-Year Fed Cup Title Drought
Will it be jubilation or heartbreak for team Australian this weekend?
When Australia last won the Fed Cup, none of the participants in this weekend’s final was even born. Including both the team captains.
1974 was the last time the country triumphed in the team tournament. A perhaps surprising statistic for a country who is the third most decorated in the history of the competition. World No.1 Ash Barty will lead her team when they played France on home soil in Perth. It is the first time in almost 20 years the two have locked horns with both being optimistic about their chances of victory.
“When you are playing for your country and you are playing in a Fed Cup final, it is pretty easy to get up and about and be as ready as you can,” said Barty, who recently won the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.
“It’s a format that I love, I cherish it. This is going to be a really precious week.”
Barty’s performance in the final could be critical to Australia’s hopes. She is the only top 50 player in her team, but Ajla Tomljanovic is just outside in 51st place. In comparison, France has four players ranked inside the top 65 in the singles. Kristina Mladenovic is also the current world No.2 in doubles. Something Barty is wary of.
“Kiki has the ability to play well in the big moments,” she told AAP.
“Obviously she was on a bit of a heater in Shenzhen in doubles and she’s a beautiful doubles player. We’ve seen that time and time again.
“I’m sure, without knowing the team until Friday, that her name will feature heavily on Saturday and Sunday.
“So it’s someone I would love to play and try and right my wrongs from midway through the year when we played in Rome.”
Whilst being the visitors, France are by no means intimidated by the occasion. They have only won the title twice before with the most recent occurring back in 2003. Three years ago, they narrowly missed out on winning the trophy after losing the final match in their tie against the Czech Republic.
Caroline Garcia was one of the Frenchwomen who featured in the 2016 final. She believes that loss has made France even stronger.
“That final was a great lesson for me and all of us,” Garcia reflects. “We now have the experience of losing and we don’t want to have the feeling of losing a final again. We have been there before, whereas the Australian girls haven’t. It is an important factor for us.”
Ajla Tomljanovic has been chosen to open up Australia’s campaign on Saturday against Mladenovic. The match will be her first ever representing her country in the Fed Cup. The former Croatian No.1 was recently approved to play for Australia following an appeal to the ITF. A somewhat controversial decision in the aftermath of Aljaz Bedene’s failed attempt to represent Great Britain a couple years ago.
Tomljanovic was picked ahead of veteran player Sam Stosur. The 35-year-old has played 57 Fed Cup matches in her career and has played in 31 ties. She has won more singles matches in the competition than any other Australian player in history.
“It is exceptionally tough to decide your two singles players for day one. For us it was a matter of match-ups and I feel like we are going in with our strongest two players for Saturday,” said team captain Alicia Molik.
“I feel like it’s the right decision… within this team everyone brought such a high level in practice. It has been difficult, sets have been very close and that’s really the way that we want it. It should be a tough decision.”
As for the second singles match, Barty will take on Garcia. They are currently level at 2-2 in their head-to-head, But Barty won their most recent meeting at the Wuhan Open this year. However French captain, Julien Benneteau, is confident in his players.
“In the first two rounds (against Belgium and Romania), we proved that we could win with different players in singles. It is an advantage,” he stated.
The final will start on Saturday at 11:00 local time (0300 GMT).
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