WASHINGTON, April 10, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinals are just nine days away matching Belarus against Australia and Romania versus France. On Wednesday, team captains revealed their nominations for both semifinal ties and each team is loaded with star talent.
Two-time champion France is bidding to reach its sixth Fed Cup final – and first since 2016, when they lost 3-2 to the Czech Republic. The French and Romanians are facing each other for just the second time and first since Romania won 3-0 in 1976. However, France will have home-court advantage by playing on indoor clay at the Kindarena in Rouen. Meanwhile, by defeating the defending-champion Czechs in the first round, Romania has reached the World Group semifinals for only the second time in its history and first since 1973.
On Wednesday, captain Florin Segarceanu nominated World No. 2 and reigning French Open champion Simona Halep (18-5 lifetime in Fed Cup singles) along with No. 31 Mihaela Buzarnescu to lead Romania, which also includes doubles duo Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu. They clinched the Romanian’s victory over the the Czech Republic with an upset of the World No. 1 pair of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in the decisive fifth rubber. France’s captain Julien Benneteau will counter with World No. 21 Caroline Garcia (10-4) to lead the French singles lineup that also includes No. 53 Pauline Parmentier, No. 54 Alizé Cornet and doubles World No. 3 Kristina Mladenovic.
Squad lists for the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas semifinals have been revealed 👀
— Fed Cup (@FedCup) 10. April 2019
In the other World Group semifinal, to be played on an outdoor hard court at Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane, Australia, seven-time Fed Cup champion Australia and Belarus are facing each other for the first time. The Aussies are aiming to reach their first final since 1993 while Belarus reached the final in 2017 before losing to the United States.
Australia captain Alicia Molik has unveiled a solid lineup that features World No. 9 Ashleigh Barty (8-1 singles and 6-1 doubles), who won the Miami Open singles title two weeks ago, anchoring the Aussie’s singles lineup and Samantha Stosur (29-18 singles), ranked No. 17 in doubles, who is 7-0 in Fed Cup doubles. Belarus is deep in talent and captain Tatiana Poutchek will draw from among World No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka (8-4), No. 35 Aliaksandra Sasnovich (16-10) and No. 60 Victoria Azarenka (16-4), who is a two-time Australian Open champion.
The World Group semifinals will take place April 20-21 with the tie draws announced on April 19.
Kerber aims to keep Germany in World Group
Angelique Kerber, who was absent when two-time champion Germany lost 4–0 to Belarus in the first round in February, is back for the Germans in their World Group playoff tie against Latvia on an indoor hard court at Arena Riga in Riga, Latvia.
The three-time Grand Slam champion and former World No. 1 Kerber’s last Fed Cup appearance was in a 2018 semifinal loss to eventual champion Czech Republic. Team captain Jens Gerlach has tapped the World No. 5 to help keep Germany in the World Group for next year. Kerber will be joined by No. 18 Julia Görges, No. 70 Andrea Petkovic and doubles No. 26 Anna-Lena Grönefeld.
Latvia has a solid one-two combo of No. 13 Anastasija Sevastova and No. 29 and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. However, team captain Adrians Zguns doesn’t have much depth beyond Sevastova and Ostapenko. Latvia has never reached the Fed Cup World Group since joining the competition in 1992.
Other World Group playoff ties
Besides, Germany versus Latvia, other World Group playoff ties include: Defending champion Czech Republic versus Canada at Prostejov, Czech Republic; 2018 finalist United States versus Switzerland at San Antonio, Texas; and Belgium versus Spain at Kortrijk, Belgium.
While the Czechs have been solid – royalty, maybe? – having won six of the last eight Fed Cup titles and 11 times total, they were upset by Romania in February, which placed them in an unfamiliar position of having to win to avoid relegation. While World Top 5 players Petra Kvitova (No. 3) and Karolina Pliskova (No. 4) will be absent, the Czechs have No. 45 Marketa Vondrousova anchoring in singles. Canada’s roster will be missing teen sensation Bianca Andreescu, ranked No. 23, who last month won the WTA Premier Mandatory at Indian Wells. Instead, the Canadian’s top player is No. 204 Rebecca Marino.
Meanwhile, the United States has fortified its roster by summoning World No. 8 Sloane Stephens and No. 14 Madison Keys for its home tie against Switzerland, which will be minus World No. 20 Belinda Bencic. Both Belgium with No. 52 Alison Van Uytvanck and No. 55 Kirsten Flipkens and Spain with No. 19 Garbiñe Muguruza and No. 27 Carla Suárez Navarro are fielding strong rosters in their respective efforts to stay in the World Group for next year