Friday, February 5, 2016

2016 Fed Cup Week 1 Preview

It's getting a little last minute but I wanted to write a few thoughts on the upcoming Fed Cup ties.

World Group I

Czech Republic at Romania: Halep stepped in to this tie at the last moment, delaying a surgery, which on paper is good for Romania but if she's really hurt, how effective can she be, especially against top 15 players Kvitova and Pliskova.  I expect the Czechs to run away with this tie thanks to Kvitova's Fed Cup prowess and the tie being on an indoor hard court.  With a curious choice (or lack of other player commitment) of Mitu and Olaru for players 3 & 4, I feel it's going to take a heroic effort from Niculescu for Romania to keep this close.  I do think they'll manage to scratch out one singles rubber though.  CZE 3 ROU 1

Switzerland at Germany: The new world no. 2 and Aussie Open champ comes home to adoring fans and a tough Fed Cup test against Bencic and Bacsinszky.  And with Petkovic's recent form, they're going to need her.  The Bacsinszky/Petkovic match on day 2 could be critical (assuming Kerber wins her 2 matches) with Hingis looming for doubles.  The Germans might be wise to bring Beck off the bench here.  Somehow I think Bacsinszky will find a way, or the Germans will choke somewhere along the line.  SUI 3 GER 2

Italy at France: It seems age is finally catching up with Italians.  Their star Pennetta is retired and Vinci is skipping the tie so it's Errani and Giorgi for singles duty.  They're up against the red-hot Mladenovic, but she may need to win 3 ties, since she's teamed with the ice-cold Garcia.  The French came from 0-2 down to beat Italy last year, and I think they'll beat them again behind 3 points from Mladenovic.  You know she'll win the doubles if it comes to that.  FRA 3 ITA 2

Netherlands at Russia: Despite Russia not being as dominant as years ago, this has to be one of the bigger mismatches in World Group I play.  Sharapova wasn't even nominated but Russia still sends out their Fed Cup stalwarts Kuznetsova and Makarova against Bertens and Hogenkamp (and maybe Rus at some point).  The 7-match Dutch win streak ends in Moscow in three lopsided contests.  RUS 3 NED 0

World Group II

Australia at Slovakia: Neither Cibulkova nor Hantuchova nominated (both apparently on the roster)  for Slovakia but somehow Australia is ending up with world no. 275 Arina Rodionova nominated for second singles behind Stosur.  Stosur will need to win all 3 points (doubles with Dellacqua will be potent if it gets there) for the Aussies to win this, but either Schmiedlova or Cepelova will get her at home.  SVK 3 AUS 1

Belarus at Canada: No Bouchard or Azarenka in Quebec City, so Canada doesn't have player ranked inside the top 300 and Belarus is left with an adequate group of Govortsova and Sasnovich and the teen star Vera Lapko.  That should be enough versus Abanda and Wozniak, who I haven't seen in a draw in quite some time.  BLR 3 CAN 1

Poland at United States: Neither Radwanska making the trip to Hawaii, and the USA has packed a good punch with Venus and Stephens for singles, and Mattek-Sands/Vandeweghe if it gets to doubles.  Linette and Kania will be hard-pressed to get a match but maybe Stephens chokes or Venus gets upset like she has a tendency to do.  USA 3 POL 1

Spain at Serbia: Muguruza and Suarez Navarro are present for Spain while Serbia has Jankovic and Jovanovski.  Both Spaniards are decent enough on hard courts, CSN fresh off an Aussie Open QF.  Jankovic has been inconsistent of late and Jovanovski, although often a Fed Cup star, is down to no. 87 in the world.  Plus Muguruza/Suarez Navarro is potent doubles partnership if it gets to that.  I don't think it will.  ESP 3 SRB 1

Zonal Groups I

These are round robin affairs that have been taking place all week with only the promotion/relegation ties remaining.

Europe/Africa: BEL vs GBR & UKR vs ISR - Teen Katie Swan has been good all week in the #2 singles spot for Great Britain but Bonaventure from Belgium is a better player than she's faced.  Watson/van Uytvanck should be a good one.  Belgium will want to finish them off in two because Rae/Smith have been excellent in Fed Cup doubles.  Host Israel lost their opening tie to Turkey but fought back and stunned Croatia to reach the final.  Ukraine with Bondarenko and Tsurenko should just be too good but don't count out Peer and Glushko's home court.  I still think Belgium (slight upset) and Ukraine will advance.

Americas: ARG vs PAR - Argentina got 4 singles wins from 18-yr-old world no. 319 Nadia Podoroska, overcoming Pereira and Brazil to reach the final.  They'll be the overwhelming favorites vs Paraguay, who overachieved to reach the final, playing without Cepede Royg.

Asia/Pacific: JPN vs TPE - It's been a crazy week in Thailand where Japan was upset by Uzbekistan on day 1 and Taiwan beat Kazakhstan.  The Uzbeks would have made the final had they not lost to lowly India today.  Japan would seem to be the favorite but Taiwan has Hsieh but Chan/Chan for doubles and that's a 1-2 punch that can win these 3 rubber ties.  Likely Hibino and Nara or Hozumi will need to win singles matches and given this week I can't see both of them doing.  Taiwan to advance.

Relegation ties: TUR def. SWE, HUN def. RSA, BOL def. PER, COL def. ECU, UZB def. KOR

Americas Zonal Group II

PUR (with Puig) def. CHI, VEN def. GUA

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