Defending champion USA heads to Prague for the Federation Cup Final, November10 th-11th, 2018. The Czech Republic are understandably many people’s favourites to wrestle the crown from the USA. Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova are the highest ranked players at #5 and #7, respectively. Sloane Stephens (#8) is the only top ten player for the USA. Serena Williams is the next top ranked for the USA at #17. However, her participation seems unlikely.
Sloane Stephens Improvement in Form Recently is Vital to USA Hopes
Sloane Stephens has been struggling for form prior to a recent improvement at the WTA Finals in Singapore. Stephens came back from losing the first eight games to beat Karolina Pliskova in Singapore. This upturn in Stephens’ level of play is important for US Coach Kathy Rinaldi-Stunkel.
Last year, Sloane Stephens went into the Fed Cup final struggling for form. The World #8 lost both rubbers for the USA against Belarus in Minsk. This took the tie down to the wire. Coco Vandeweghe bailed her country out by winning both of her singles rubbers. This is in addition to partnering Shelby Rogers, to seal the crucial doubles rubber. Ironically, Coco Vandeweghe became the first player to win 6 Fed Cup matches in a season, since Petra Kvitova in 2011.
Doubles Rubber Already Looks Like it could be Key Again
Last year Coco Vandeweghe fought off injury to practically single-handedly haul the USA over the line against Belarus. It’d be a brave call to leave Vandeweghe out this season, as she gets fire in her belly at the mere mention of the Fed Cup.
The latest USA doubles pairing for the semis against the Netherlands was Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. The latter player bagged a doubles (mixed) Slam title at the US Open, this year. This honor was earned despite missing a large chunk of the season due to a crippling knee injury picked up at Wimbledon in 2017. Mattek-Sands back at her best is the key to a good performance from the champs, in the doubles domain. Obviously, Slam doubles success wise: Serena and Venus Williams provide that by the bucketful (14). That said, against the Netherlands in round 1,their doubles spark failed to ignite.
Czech Republic Possess Strength in Doubles Depth
For the Czech Republic the reliable Barbora Strycova played in each of the last two Fed Cup doubles rubbers. Strycova ranks #5 in doubles and was partnered by Safarova and Siniakova respectively. However, Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejčíková were recent runners up in the WTA Doubles Finals and are the world #1. The Czech’s will be disappointed if they lose the doubles rubber.
Czech Out the Strength in Singles Depth from the Challengers
The recent WTA Finals in Singapore saw the Czech Republic as the only nation with two representatives in the singles: Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova. Kvitova, unfortunately, continues to look tired and drained on-court. This definitely came across in her 0-3 showing in Singapore. However, this fighter of a Czech is 4-0 in Fed Cup this season, so it’d be unwise to write her off.
Federation Cup Should be Closer than Ryder Cup
The teams are due to be announced soon. Anticipation and excitement is building, as the 10,700 capacity venue has sold out. It’ll be a hostile environment for the Americans, but it was in Belarus last year. The champions will be keen to restore some post Ryder Cup pride by gaining a title in Europe; it won’t be easy.