Fed Cup Preview: Angelique Kerber Leads The Field, Play-Offs Set To Overshadow Semifinals - UBITENNIS
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Fed Cup

Fed Cup Preview: Angelique Kerber Leads The Field, Play-Offs Set To Overshadow Semifinals

Fed Cup returns again for the last time before the November final, this time with semifinals and play-offs which will set the stage for World Group and World Group II in 2018.



World Group Semifinals

USA – Czech Republic

The tie was initially very hyped, but it died down after both teams are missing their biggest stars. United States put the tie on outdoor clay in Tampa Bay, Florida. This decision may impair their chances, as Team USA is led by Australian Open semifinalist Coco Vandeweghe. Shelby Rogers has been named to be the No. 2 over the higher ranked Lauren Davis, as she has proven herself on clay by reaching the Roland Garros quarterfinals in 2016, but also quarterfinals in Charleston earlier this year. The aforementioned Lauren Davis will most likely only enter the tie in a dead rubber or in case of injury. Doubles World No. 1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands will also be ready to fight in the deciding doubles rubber. Czech Republic are missing their 4 best players in this tie, Kvitova because of injury and the others most likely due to the tie being played in America while the clay season is in Europe. 21 year-old Katerina Siniakova will be the leader and the team’s only Top 50 player. Captain Petr Pala decided to field the teenager and winner of WTA Biel Marketa Vondrousova as the No. 2, so she will play Vandeweghe on Day 1, despite being the lowest ranked nominated player. Kristyna Pliskova would be the presumed No. 2, but her game doesn’t really fit the surface. However, she is a Top 100 doubles player, so she might still be key to the process. Allertova’s 2017 has also been mainly disappointing, racking up a record of 0-6 against Top 100 opponents this year so far, but her best tennis is definitely worthwhile.
My Predictions
Vondrousova def. Vandeweghe
Rogers def. Siniakova
Siniakova def. Vandeweghe
Rogers def. Vondrousova
Mattek-Sands/Vandeweghe def. Kr.Pliskova/Siniakova
USA wins 3-2

Belarus – Switzerland

Belarus hosts the Swiss in Minsk on indoor hard, still having to deal with the absence of Viktoria Azarenka. Home team is led by Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who will try to retain her form from the Biel semifinals, playing on the same surface. Sasnovich won two rubbers against the Netherlands, and will definitely be the biggest threat to Switzerland. 18 year-old Aryna Sabalenka, who completed the win over Netherlands, is again the Belarussian No. 2, both players hoping to gather their Fed Cup spirit and repeat the upset from last time. The doubles team will be Olga Govortsova and Vera Lapko, both players ranked within the Top 200 in doubles, but also very capable singles players. Switzerland got together the best possible team, their No. 1 being Timea Bacsinszky. Viktorija Golubic was picked over Belinda Bencic for the No. 2 spot, mostly due to Bencic’s recent form. Bencic is set to play doubles with Martina Hingis, but Hingis actually played a warm-up tournament with Timea Bacsinszky in Biel, reaching the final together. Golubic is also a solid doubles player and could play with Hingis.
My Predictions
Sasnovich def. Golubic
Bacsinszky def. Sabalenka
Bacsinszky def. Sasnovich
Golubic def. Sabalenka
Switzerland wins 3-1

World Group Play-Offs

France – Spain

Despite the fact that the French federation threatened their players with bans, injured Caroline Garcia and Oceane Dodin are not playing this tie. The only French Top 20 player Kristina Mladenovic is the No. 1, and Yannick Noah nominated Pauline Parmentier for the No. 2 spot on Day 1 over the higher ranked Alize Cornet. There doesn’t seem to be a clear reason why, as both players have had similar results, but it may be because Parmentier’s game fits the indoor clay better. Completing the quartet is Amandine Hesse in case of injury or dead rubber. Spain is very dependent on their two main stars- Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro. It is made painfully clear when neither attends the tie, like in this case. Lara Arruabarrena also opted out of the tie, so World No. 82 Sara Sorribes Tormo will be the No. 1. No. 2 is the established but declining clay court player Silvia Soler-Espinosa, who will try to summon some of her past greatness for this Fed Cup tie. No. 265 Olga Saez Larra has also made herself available for the tie, and is projected to play doubles alongside the No. 33 in doubles, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
My Predictions
Mladenovic def. Soler-Espinosa
Parmentier def. Sorribes Tormo
Mladenovic def. Sorribes Tormo
Spain wins 3-0

Russia – Belgium

Anastasia Myskina put together a team on the stronger side, getting Vesnina and Pavlyuchenkova as her singles players, with the possibility of including Daria Kasatkina on Day 2. 18 year-old Anna Blinkova is also along for the ride. Vesnina was the winner at Indian Wells, and Pavlyuchenkova beat Angelique Kerber to win Monterrey, being in great form. However, the tie in Luzhinki is on indoor clay, so Kasatkina who just won Charleston may have been a better choice. The Belgian squad is weakened by the absences of Yanina Wickmayer and Kirsten Flipkens, producing a team of 23 and under players. Elise Mertens and Alison Van Uytvanck are playing the singles, while the former Ukranian Maryna Zanevska and mostly doubles specialist An-Sophie Mestach.
My Predictions
Vesnina def. Van Uytvanck
Mertens def. Pavlyuchenkova
Vesnina def. Mertens
Kasatkina def. Van Uytvanck
Russia wins 3-1

Germany – Ukraine

Germans are hosting Ukraine in Porsche Arena, Stuttgart, the same venue where the tournament will be played next week. World No. 1 Angelique Kerber has come, trying to get some match play before Stuttgart which is something this tie should give her. Julia Goerges has been nominated as the No. 2 over the higher ranked Laura Siegemund, mostly because of the way Goerges’ style condraticts Svitolina. It is however expected that Siegemund would play the No. 2 rubber on Day 2, making Goerges available for doubles. Carina Witthoeft has also been nominated. Elina Svitolina will lead the Ukranian team as the No. 1, Lesia Tsurenko seconding her in singles. Kateryna Bondarenko chose to play Stuttgart qualifying instead, so despite being on-site, she won’t be able to play Fed Cup. Instead Olga Savchuk and Nadiia Kichenok will be the doubles options.
My Predictions
Svitolina def. Goerges
Kerber def. Tsurenko
Svitolina def. Kerber
Siegemund def. Tsurenko
Goerges/Kerber def. Savchuk/Svitolina
Germany wins 3-2

Slovakia – Netherlands

The Slovak team has been strongly weakened by Dominika Cibulkova suffering a wrist injury while training with the team, now having to be replaced by Daniela Hantuchova. This means that Kristina Kucova is the highest ranked player, but the captain Matej Liptak chose Jana Cepelova and Rebecca Sramkova for the singles on the fast indoor clay in Bratislava on Day 1. Cepelova and Kucova are projected as the doubles team, but it is likely that Kucova would be replaced by Hantuchova, a player that possesses far more doubles prowess. The Netherlands have their strongest team in Bratislava, led by World No. 20 Kiki Bertens, who has also had doubts surrounding her start in the tie. Richel Hogenkamp, Cindy Burger and Arantxa Rus are all competing for the No. 2 spot, but it has been given to Hogenkamp at least for the opening rubber.
My Predictions*
Cepelova def. Hogenkamp
Sramkova def. Bertens
Bertens def. Cepelova
Sramkova def. Hogenkamp
Slovakia wins 3-1
*(Let it be known that the author of the article is a Slovak native, which may affect my predictions)

Honorable Mention: Romania – Great Britain

Despite it being a Play-Off tie for the World Group II, Romania versus Great Britain definitely deserves a mention in this Fed Cup preview piece. Not only it features one of the most tennis nations in the World, but also 2 Top 10 players in Simona Halep and Johanna Konta. Romania took a risk and put the tie on outdoor clay in Constanta, Romania, where the temperatures are not expected to rise above 15 degrees Celsius this weekend. Romania put forth their strongest team, with Halep and Begu in the singles, backed up by Monica Niculescu, No. 23 doubles player, and Sorana Cirstea. Great Britain is led by World No. 7 Konta, who will be seconded by Heather Watson, as Naomi Broady chose to play Stuttgart qualifying instead. Laura Robson and Jocelyn Rae are the projected doubles team.
My Predictions
Halep def. Watson
Konta def. Begu
Halep def. Konta
Begu def. Watson
Romania wins 3-1

Fed Cup

Italian Captain Tathiana Garbin Reveals Rare Tumor Diagnoses After Team’s Loss At BJK Finals



Former top 30 player and captain of the Italian Billie Jean King Cup team Tathiana Garbin has publically announced that she is battling a serious health issue. 

Just hours after her team lost to Canada in the Billie Jean King Cup final in Seville on Sunday, the 46-year-old issued a statement confirming that she is undergoing treatment for a rare tumor that has been found in her stomach. Garbin had her first surgery in October but will have to undergo further procedures in the coming weeks. 

“I really wish to thank my Federation, which has constantly supported me with extraordinary solidarity and sensitivity,” Gabin said in a statement sent to the news agency Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA). 
“Seville was a very important event for me, and I absolutely didn’t want to miss it despite being very close to my operation: the Federation has shown they placed full trust in me. There is nothing that makes me prouder than representing the colors of Italy. “

Gabin says she hopes to raise awareness of medical research and prevention by going public about her condition, as well as hoping to inspire others with her story. She is being treated by Professor Di Candio and Professor Morelli at the Cisanello Hospital in Pisa. 

“I thank my BJ King Cup girls, who have shown me incredible love and support. Their presence and support have been a beacon of positivity in these difficult days,” she said in tribute to her team.
“However, I would like to inform you that I will have to undergo a second surgery, required by the treatment planned by the doctors. Thanks to the rapid recovery I have experienced, I am optimistic about being back on court.”

As a player, Garbin peaked at a ranking high of No.22 in singles and No.25 in doubles. Her sole singles title on the WTA Tour occurred in 2000 when she won the Budapest Open in Hungary. Seven years after that, she reached the fourth round of the French Open in what was her best-ever run at a major event. 

Garbin has served as Italy’s Billie Jean King Cup captain since 2016. 

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Fed Cup

Doubles Delight: Great Britain Ousts France 2-1 In Davis Cup Classic



Image via https://twitter.com/the_LTA/

Great Britain has won the last spot in the Davis Cup finals by prevailing in a highly dramatic clash against France in front of a record crowd in Manchester.

With the must-win showdown level at 1-1, the tie was decided by a rollercoaster doubles match with Dan Evans and Neil Skupski battling their way past Nicolas Mahut and Édouard Roger-Vasselin 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(6). In what was one of the most tense matches ever involving the British team, four match points were saved by the hosts. Evans fended off three whilst serving 4-5 down in the decider before Skupski saved one when he was serving two games later. To add to the drama, in the decisive tiebreaker Britain lost a mini-break advantage twice before prevailing on their second match point. 

“I don’t know how we’ve won that fight, sheer fight. Incredible effort from Dan to come out and win this match with me,” said Skupski.
“The first set wasn’t too good. We regrouped, took a toilet [break] and fought as hard as we could. Dan saving three points in the third set. The rest is history and we’re off to Malaga.” 

The triumph caps off what has been a marathon day at The AO Arena with all three matches going the full distance. A total of more than 13,000 seats was sold for the tie which is a record for a single day of Davis Cup action in the UK. 

Earlier in the day, Evans got Britain off to a perfect start by fighting back from a set and a break down to beat Arthur Fils 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, in what was a close fight. At the end of the encounter, there was a tense exchange between the two which continued during the doubles match with Evans seen making gestures towards the Frenchman who was watching from the stands. 

France’s sole victor was Ugo Humbert who beat former Wimbledon semi-finalist Cameron Norrie 7-6(5),3-6, 7-5. A new confidence blow to the British No.1 who has only won back-to-back matches in one out of his past five tournaments. 

“The team is amazing. We get on very well. Everyone’s played a part. It’s all those guys and girls standing there (in the stands) who are amazing.” Captain Leon Smith commented. 

Britain joins Australia in qualifying from Group B to November’s finals which will be held in Malaga. The team has won all three of their ties played in Manchester with their previous wins being over Australia and Switzerland earlier in the week. 

In total, eight teams have secured their place in the finals. Group stages have also been held in Spain, Croatia and Italy with the top two nations from each of those events progressing. 

Britain is seeking to win the Davis Cup title for only the second time in the Open Era after 2015. 

List of teams through to the knockout stages in Malaga

  • Great Britain
  • Australia
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Canada
  • Serbia
  • Czech Republic
  • Netherlands

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Fed Cup

Australia Ousts Great Britain In Thriller To Reach BJK Cup Final

The host nation narrowly missed out on a place in the final but they have plenty of positives to motivate them for the future.



The British Billie Jean King Cup team (image via LTA Twitter)

Australia has denied Great Britain an opportunity to play in their first team final since 1981 after prevailing 2-1 in an epic tussle at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow. 

The gripping tie was level at 1-1 after each team won one of the singles matches, paving the way for a winner-takes-all doubles encounter. The British team featured Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls who were both making their debut in the competition this week. Their opponents were former Grand Slam winner Sam Stosur and world No.10 doubles player Storm Sanders.

Despite the gap in experience between the two pairings, there was almost nothing to distinguish between the two throughout the majority of their encounter which lasted more than two hours. Nevertheless, the Australian duo held their nerve to seal a 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 10-6, victory to send them into the final. 

“That was amazing. it could have gone either way and credit to the GB girls they played really well. They will be here again for sure.” Sanders said during her on-court interview. 

It is only the second time in the past 30 years that Australia has progressed to the final after 2019. Before playing Great Britain, they also defeated Belgium and Slovakia in the group stages. 

“A real credit to the four players out on court that was pretty inspirational, so I hope it inspires a lot more of you out there to play doubles. It was really such a high level you couldn’t pick it in the end.” Australian captain Alicia Molik commented on the doubles match. 

Earlier in the day, Australia got off to the perfect start with Sanders edging her way past Heather Watson 6-4, 7-6(3). However, the host nation battled back with an impressive performance from Harriet Dart who defeated Ajla Tomljanović 7-6(3), 6-2. A player who has reached the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open this year. 

“The Billie Jean King Cup just brings the best out of me. I love playing in front of a home crowd, and I feel like I have really been feeding off my teammates and everyone here. It just makes me really want to do really well.” Said Dart. 

The performances from the underdogs provide Britain with plenty of hope for the future. The nation lost in qualifying earlier this year but managed to enter the finals via wildcard due to the competition being held in their country. 

“I’m just gutted for everyone right now but also I think we have to try and keep things in perspective,” British captain Keothavong told reporters. 
“What a fantastic week it has been for the team. I don’t know how many people gave us much of a chance really to even come through the group stages.’
“It really is a fantastic achievement to reach the semifinals but we felt we could have gone further. That’s why it hurts so much.
“It’s going to hurt the players for a while but they’ll (the team) get over it. They can still hold their heads high because they have shown what they are capable of under a huge amount of pressure to deliver, and in the end, it came down to a few points.”

Australia will next play either Switzerland or the Czech Republic in the final. They are seeking to win the trophy for the first time since 1974.

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