Romania’s Simona Halep and Czech Republic’s Karolina Plsikova will be the stand-out names at next week’s Fed Cup World Group and World Group II first round matches on 9-10 February 2019.
Eleven of the top 20 players have been nominated for next weekend’s Fed Cup ties across 13 venues around the world.
The other top players, who have been nominated are France’s Caroline Garcia, Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, USA’s Madison Keys, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, Russia’s Daria Kasatkina and Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit.
Former world number 1 Simona Halep will headline a strong Romanian team, which travels to Ostrava to play against Czech Republic. Halep will be joined in the Romanian team by Michaela Buzarnescu, Irina Camelia Begu, Ana Bogdan and Monica Niculescu.
Czech Republic is aiming at scoring the third win over Romania at this event in front of their home fans after clinching the first two ties between these two nations in 1980 and 2016. Czech captain Petr Pala, who guided Czech Republic to seven titles in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018, has nominated Karolina Pliskova, Katerina Siniakova, Marketa Vondrousova and Barbora Krejjcikova.
Caroline Garcia will make her return to Fed Cup for the French team, which will travel to Liege to play against Belgium in the Country Hall Sart-Tillman. The French team now guided by Julien Benneteau also features Kristina Mladenovic, Alizé Cornet, Pauline Parmentier and Fiona Ferro. Last year’s Australian Open semifinalist Elise Mertens will headline the Belgian team, which also features Alison Van Uytvanck, Kirsten Flipkens and Ysaline Bonaventure.
Germany will be aiming at reaching the Fed Cup semifinals for the second consecutive year, when they face Belarus at the Volkswagen Halle in Braunschweig. Andrea Petkovic will be the stand-out name in a strong German team, which also features Tatjana Maria, Mona Barthel, Laura Siegemund and doubles specialist Anna Lena Groenefeld. Germany are bidding to repeat their first round win against Belarus last year. The Belarusian team captained by Tatiana Poutchek has a lot of talented players in the team like world number 10 Aryna Sabalenka, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Victoria Azarenka, Vera Lapcko and Lidziya Marozava.
US captain Kathy Rinaldi has nominated this year’s Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins for the first round tie against Australia in Asheville. Collins was nominated last year for the Fed Cup Final against Czech Republic, but she did not play. The US team wil also feature Madison Keys, Sofia Kenin and Nicole Melichar.
Australian captain has nominated this year’s Sydney finalist Ashleigh Barty, Daria Gavrilova, Priscilla Hon, Kimberley Hon and Astra Sharma.
Camila Giorgi and Belinda Bencic will headline the World Group II between Switzerland and Italy in Biel. Giorgi will make her come-back to the Fed Cup after nearly three years. Her lat appearance at this event dates back to the Fed Cup first round tie against France in 2016.
World Number 13 Anastasjia Sevastova and Jelena Ostapenko will be in the spotlight in the World Group II tie between Latvia and Slovakia in Riga. Dominika Cibulkova will make her first appearance for the Slovakian team in nearly three years.
Simona Halep makes a winning start to her Prague Open campaign
Number 1 seed and last year’s Wimbledon champion Simona Halep edged past Polona Hercog 6-1 1-6 7-6 (7-3) in two and a half hours in the opening round of the Prague Open on her seventh match point after 2 hours and 31 minutes. Halep played her first match since claiming her 20th title in Dubai.
Halep wasted six match points before claiming the win in the tie-break of the third set to secure his spot in the Round of 16. Halep won four points more than Hercog and saved five of the 11 break points he faced.
Both players traded breaks in the second and third games of the opening set. Halep earned two consecutive breaks in the fourth and sixth games to win the first set 6-1, as Hercog made 12 unforced errors to only two winners.
Hercog came back from a break down early in the second set to get three consecutive breaks and won the second set 6-1.
Both players traded breaks in the fourth and fifth games of the decider. Halep earned another break to open up a 5-3 lead. Hercog broke back in the ninth game and saved six match points in the 10th and 12th games to set up a decisive tie-break. Halep claimed the tie-break 7-3.
Before the five-month break Halep lost to Garbine Muguruza in the semifinal of the Australian Open and won the Dubai final.
Last week’s Palermo semifinalist Camila Giorgi came back from one set down to beat Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-4) after 2 hours and 14 minutes. Giorgi converted six of her eight break points.
Kostyuk earned the first break in the fourth game. Giorgi broke straight back in the fifth game. Both players traded breaks in the sixth and seventh games. Giorgi saved a break point in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Kostyuk broke for the third time in the 10th game to win the first set 6-4 after 44 minutes.
Giorgi broke twice in a row to race out to a 4-0 lead, Kostyuk pulled one break back in the sixth game for 2-4, but Giorgi broke again in the seventh game to win the second set 6-2 in 31 minutes.
Kostyuk broke serve in the third game of the decider to open up a 3-0 lead. Giorgi broke back to draw level to 3-3. In the eighth game the Italian star fended off another break. The set came down to the tie-break. Giorgi opened up a 4-2 lead. Both players traded mini-breaks. Giorgi earned two match points and converted her first chance to win the tie-break 7-4.
Petra Martic advances to the second round at the Prague Open
Number 2 seed and Roland Garros quarter finalist Petra Martic edged past world number 101 Varvara Gracheva 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 after 1 hour and 50 minutes to advance to the second round at the Prague Open.
Martic earned the first break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Gracheva broke back at love to draw level to 5-5, as Martic was serving for the first set. Martic hit two dropshots to force a tie-break. The Croatian player won the tie-break 7-2, as Gacheva made five unforrced errors out of nine points.
Martic needed a medical time-out between sets, but she converted her third break point at deuce to race out to a 3-0 lead with a series of dropshots and smashes. The world number 15 wasted three game points for a 4-1 lead. Gracheva broke back in the fifth game after four deuces. Martic brought up another break point with a drop-shot and converted his chance to take a 4-2 lead as Gracheva sent a forehand long.
Martic dropped two more points on her serve and converted her first match point with a kick serve and a forehand.
“It was not an eay match, especially in the first set. Unfortunately I could not serve it out, but I am happy I brought my level up in the tie-break where it mattered. It’s definitely not ideal. I have some aches here and there, the body is still adjusting to matches and playing one after another, but I think it’s normal and I hope I can maintain it to last this tournament”, said Martic.
Elise Mertens battled past Jasmine Paolini 7-5 4-6 6-3 after two hours and 41 minutes. In the first set Paolini missed two break points at 3-2 15-40 before dropping her serve in the next game at 15. The Italian player saved a set point at 4-5 and broke back to draw level to 5-5. Mertens broke again in the 11th game and served out the first set on her third set point to win the first set 7-5.
Mertens went up a break to take a 3-1 lead, but Paolini broke back to draw level to 3-3. Paolini saved two game points in the 10th game before breaking serve to win the second set 6-4. Mertens earned an early break in the first game of the third set. In the next game Paolini missed two break-back points.
Paolini broke back in the fourth game, but she dropped her serve in the fifth game after missing a game point for 3-2. Mertens held her service game after saving a break point to take a 4-2 lead. The Belgian player broke again in the eighth game at 15 at 5-3 and secured the win on the first match point.
Johanna Konta ‘Not Too Worried’ By Heart Scare At Top Seed Open
The world No.15 will undergo an EKG test after crashing out of the Lexington event on Monday.
British No.1 Johanna Konta experienced a turbulent return to professional tennis at the Top Seed Open after suffering heart palpitations during her 6-4, 6-4, loss to unseeded Czech Marie Bouzkova in the first round on Monday.
Konta, who was seeded third in the tournament, sought medical attention following the first game of the match where she had her blood pressure taken. Despite the scare, she continued with the match but was unable to find a way to break down the game of her 23-year-old opponent. Konta managed to win only 39% of her second service points and failed to convert six out of her seven break point opportunities.
“My heart rate shoots up for no reason, we didn’t have a long point, I wasn’t gassing in any way in my lungs,” Konta commented on her health scare.
“It actually goes up and stays there so it makes me a bit lightheaded, I just needed to see the doctor and the physio.
“It was very high when they came out. I was having all the checks. I am as fit as a fiddle but it can happen. It took a while to settle down but then it did and I was able to concentrate on the tennis.”
This week was Konta’s first WTA tournament since the Monterrey Open in March. During the five-month break in the sport due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world No.15 only played in one exhibition event. Taking part in the Battle of the Brits where she won one match before getting knocked out of the tournament.
Commenting further on her heart palpitations, Konta said that she was ‘not too worried’ by it because she has experienced similar before. The 29-year-old is however going to have an EKG test to check.
“We don’t know why it happens, it’s been under stressful situations, in no stress situations. We just don’t know. It’s been sporadic,” she said.
“It’s not ideal. I am going to have another EKG and see what protocols we can take. It’s probably not going to happen again for another year or something. I’m not too worried, no.”
There was better news on the opening day of the tournament for other top names in the draw. Second seed Aryna Sabalenka required almost two-and-a-half hours to edge out world No.80 Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-2. The world No.11 at times struggled with her serve as she hit 11 double faults alongside eight aces.
“[Brengle] played really well, she moved really well,” wtatennis.com quoted Sabalenka as saying following the match. “It was tough. I just tried to stay in the game, tried to think clean, and fight to the end, like I usually did.”
Sabalenka could play Coco Gauff in the second round should the American rising star win her opening match.
Magda Linette dropped only five games during her 6-2, 6-3, win over Lauren Davis. The Polish sixth seed dropped her serve only once at the start of the match before dominating proceedings during her 83-minute encounter. Setting up a showdown with Jenifer Brady in the second round who crushed Heather Watson 6-2, 6-1.
Finally, eighth seed One Jabeur downed Caty McNally 6-2, 6-4.
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