Photo: Martin SidorjakCzech captain Petr Pala and Petra Kvitova (CZE)
The top two ranked teams in Fed Cup by BNP Paribas go head-to-head in Ostrava this weekend as Italy travelling to Czech Republic with both sides fielding their top players for what promises to be a tightly fought battle. Recent history has favoured the home side with each of the last three meetings being won by the host nation.
In a draw made using Easter eggs concealing a golden ticket it was determined that Sara Errani would face Lucie Safarova in the opener to be followed by world No. 6 Petra Kvitova playing the rising star on the WTA Tour Camila Giorgi, who reached her first tour-level final last week in Katowice and is selected ahead of both Roberta Vinci and Karin Knapp.
Kvitova is anticipating a close encounter where she hopes that once more the advantage of playing in front of a partisan crowd will make the difference: “They are great opponents and we are so glad to play them. It's a great battle and a big challenge for everyone playing. We hope everyone who watches will enjoy it”.
Sunday will see Kvitova meet Errani in the first reverse singles and should the tie go into the fifth rubber Vinci, who is still unbeaten in Fed Cup doubles, has been nominated to play alongside Knapp against Andrea Hlavackova and Klara Koukalova.
With Italy and Czech Republic having shared each of the last five titles in the compeition between them it will fall to one of Germany or Australia to aim to break that run as they face-off in the other semifinal.
The German team have made the long trip to Brisbane ahead of the European clay court season with a strong team featuring world No. 7 Angelique Kerber spearheading the visitor’s attempts to make a first Final since 1992.
It will be the German No. 2, Andrea Petkovic, however to kick off the tie on Saturday against Samantha Stosur. Petkovic is coming off a title in Charleston and is happy with a draw that allows her to play first.
“We were jet lagged when we were arriving but in Fed Cup that goes quickly, faster than normal,” said the world No. 28. “I’m happy playing first in Fed Cup because I lose a lot of energy watching the other girls because I’m very emotional and because I want them to win so badly.”
They will be followed on court by Kerber who faces Casey Dellacqua with the German having won the only previous meeting between the two back in 2011 in straight sets.
The doubles will see Dellacqua playing alongside regular partner Ashleigh Barty while German doubles specialist Anna-Lena Groenefeld has been nominated to pair with Julia Goerges in what could prove to be the decider in an intriguing tie.
Elsewhere this weekend there are four World Group play-off ties and a further four ties to decide places in World Group II taking place across the globe.
World No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanksa, Poland’s most successful player in Fed Cup, is looking to continue her nation’s charge in the competition which has led them to the brink of a first ever appearance in the elite eight of World Group. They face a Spanish side that has spent much of the last five years bouncing between the top two tiers of the competition.
Agnieszka Radwanska will open proceedings on Saturday against Silvia Soler-Espinosa before younger sister Urszula takes on Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor. Polish Captain Tomasz Wiktorowski has nominated his other two players Paula Kania and Alicija Rosolska for the fifth rubber but would surely be tempted to bring in his star player if the tie was still on the line.
Eugenie Bouchard is looking to achieve the same feat with Canada, having been promoted from Americas Zone Group I two years ago and also led them to victory over Serbia in February. Standing in their way is Slovak Republic who are without two of their stalwarts, Daniela Hantuchova and Dominika Cibulkova, so will be looking to youngster Jana Cepelova to help them extend their stay at the top.
The final two places in World Group I will be filled by the winners of the ties in Sochi and St. Louis where Russia and USA meet Argentina and France respectively.
The pick of the World Group II play-offs will see Romania host Serbia with good friends Sorana Cirstea and Ana Ivanovic meeting each other in the opening rubber on Saturday in Bucharest. World No. 5 Simona Halep, who won the Fed Cup Heart Award for her exploits in the last round, will then take on Bojana Jovanovksi in the second match of the day before returning to court against Ivanovic in the first revserse singles on Sunday.
The pairings for the potentially all-important doubles rubber have Monica Niculescu and Irina-Camelia Begu against Jovana Jaksic and Nina Stojanovic.
Swedish No. 1 Johanna Larsson will open proceedings in Lidkoping against Thailand’s Noppawan Lertcheewakarn ahead of Sofia Arvidsson and Luksika Kumkhum. Teliana Pereira is leading the way for Brazil as they look to earn a first ever appearance in World Group II and opens against Timea Bacsinszky in a tie that also features Swiss prodigy Belinda Bencic.
The final World Group II play-off tie of the weekend witnesses a first home tie for Netherlands for 15 years with Japan providing the opposition. Arantxa Rus returns to the Dutch side having missed their successful Europe/Africa Zone Group I campaign in February and is thrown straight into action against Kurumi Nara before Kiki Bertens faces Misaki Doi.
For a full report from each tie please follow the links below:
World Group semifinals
Czech Republic v Italy
Australia v Germany
World Group play-offs
Russia v Argentina
Canada v Slovak Republic
USA v France
Spain v Poland
World Group II play-offs
Romania v Serbia
Netherlands v Japan
Sweden v Thailand
Brazil v Switzerland