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April 20, 2012



2012 Daily Tennis News Wire -
Women's Look Forward: Fed Cup

This is the week Petra Kvitova hopes to finally get un-stuck.

It's an interesting problem. There isn't much doubt that Kvitova is the best player in the tie between the Czechs and Italy (being hosted by the Czechs on an indoor hardcourt in Ostrava). But her support isn't all that great -- Lucie Safarova, Lucie Hradecka, and Andrea Hlavackova. True, that give them the reigning French Open doubles champions, but Hradecka/Hlavackova have been hot and cold since then.

And the Italians, although they don't have a Top Ten singles player, have four Top Thirty players -- Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vinci, Flavia Pennetta, and Sara Errani. And Vinci/Errani have three doubles titles already this year. They would of course prefer clay as a surface. But between their depth and Kvitova's recent physical problems, they clearly have a shot.

The Czech lineup is predictable: Kvitova and Safarova in singles, Hradecka and Hlavackova in doubles. The Italians decided to play Schiavone and Errani -- Schiavone presumably because she is their best, Errani because she is the one currently in best form. The doubles team will be Errani/Vinci.

Russia seems to be a shadow of its former self. They are hosting Serbia on indoor clay in Moscow, but they have to do it without Maria Sharapova (always a reluctant participant, and the clay can't have helped) or Vera Zvonareva (hurting). That gives them a team of Maria Kirilenko, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (slumping), Svetlana Kuznetsova (slumping), and Elena Vesnina (slumping in singles, although she is presumably along for the doubles). Serbia answers with its best team, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Bojana Jovanovski, and Aleksandra Krunic. Of course, Jankovic is a mess right now. So that tie, too, is hard to call.

The Russian strategy is interesting. They are holding Kirilenko, the top player on the team, out of the singles. It's easy to understand why they chose to play Kuznetsova, who is their veteran and who has the strongest career results. But Pavlyuchenkova is the least experienced player on the team, and in an awful funk. That leaves Kirilenko and Vesnina for the doubles. Both are ranked very high, but they don't seem like they complement all that well. Makes you wonder if there is something we don't know about.

There are no such questions about Serbia. They're going with Jankovic and Ivanovic in singles; Jankovic will open the tie against Pavlyuchenkova. The listed doubles team is Jovanovski/Krunic, but we would expect that to change if the tie is still live after the singles.

It's much easier to guess the outcome of the Ukraine versus United States playoff tie, hosted by the Ukrainians on clay. Their team is Lesia Tsurenko, Elina Svitolina, and the Kichenok sisters. The Americans have Serena Williams, Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens, and Liezel Huber (the first two playing singles, the latter two doubles). Any questions?

Japan's team, which is hosting Belgium on an indoor hardcourt, is headed by Kimiko Date-Krumm, who was playing Fed Cup around the time some of her opponents -- and her teammates -- were being born. She is supported by Ayumi Morita, Kurumi Nara (who is more than 21 years younger than Date-Krumm!), and Rika Fujiwara, with whom she just won a title last week. That's obviously not a strong team. But Belgium has neither Kim Clijsters nor Yanina Wickmayer, and later came word that Kirsten Flipkens is out. There really isn't much left for Belgium. Their lineup is Tamaryn Hendler, Alison van Uytvanck, Ysaline Bonaventure, and An-Sophie Mestach. Hendler, the veteran, is more than 21 years younger than Date-Krumm; the other three, all born in 1994, are more than 23 years younger.

Spain, like Russia, lacks its big guns -- no Anabel Medina Garrigues, no Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. They are stuck with Silvia Soler Espinos, Lourdes Dominguez Lino, Arantxa Parra Santonja, and Nuria Llagostera Vives. They'll have home court advantage, but that hardly seems enough against a Slovak team that has Dominika Cibulkova and Daniela Hantuchova.

Germany's initial lineup had all three of their Top Twenty players, Andrea Petkovic, Angelique Kerber, and Julia Goerges (whose ranking however will be falling this week as her Stuttgart title comes off). They added Anna-Lena Groenefeld for doubles. The question, of course, was Petkovic's health. She is still listed as on the team, but she isn't playing singles Against them, Australia offers a team of Samantha Stosur, Jarmila Gajdosova, Casey Dellacqua, and Olivia Rogowska. It's another case of one team having the best player (Australia, with Stosur), the other having greater depth. That could be close, or it could be a blowout.

Turning to the World Group II Playoffs, France clearly has the edge in experience over Slovenia, with a team consisting of veterans Pauline Parmentier, Stephanie Foretz Gacon, and Virginie Razzano, plus Kristina Mladenovic. On the other hand, the Slovenes have the best singles player in the tie in Polona Hercog and the best doubles player in Katarina Srebotnik. On the gripping hand, both Hercog and Srebotnik have been struggling, and the rest of the team is Petra Rampre and Nastja Kolar. Edge probably to France.

Switzerland has to go with Stefanie Voegele, Amra Sadikovic, Timea Bacsinszky, and just-barely-fifteen-year-old Belinda Bencic. The visitors from Belarus have Olga Govortsova, Darya Kustova, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and Darya Lebesheva. Hard to tell what to expect when three of the players in the tie are complete unknowns....

Great Britain and Sweden both managed to get everyone to turn out. Sweden has Sofia Arvidsson and Johanna Larsson, plus two others who presumably won't play; the British have Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson, and Laura Robson. That's another hard-to-call tie.

China couldn't get anyone to turn up. No Li Na, no Peng Shuai, no Zheng Jie. Their listed #1 is Wang Qiang, plus Zhao Yi-Miao, Liang Chen, and Liu Wan-Ting. The good news is, they're playing Argentina. And Argentina lacks Gisela Dulko. As well as Paola Suarez. (And here we thought Suarez wanted to get into the Olympics.) The Argentines still have the stronger team, plus the advantage of clay. But it seems rather pointless to have both teams fielding only also-rans.

KEYWORDS: Preview Fed Cup


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