Fed Cup Final: Kvitova’s Absence A Welcome Boost For Defending Champion U.S.

Danielle Rose Collins, Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske and Nicole Melichar of Team USA during the Draw Ceremony (photo: Fernando Colon/USTA)

WASHINGTON, November 9, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic and Sofia Kenin of defending champion United States will open play in the 2018 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas final on Saturday at the O2 Arena in Prague.

On Friday, the official draw ceremony was held inside Prague’s Town Hall and there was one big surprise. The lineup Czech Republic captain Petr Pala submitted for nomination did not include his team’s top singles player, Petra Kvitova. The World No. 7, who has been a perfect 4-0 during 2018 Fed Cup play, has been struggling with a recent illness – a fever according to Pala – and it was decided not to risk playing her during the opening-day rubbers. However, Kvitova could still be nominated for Sunday’s reverse singles.

Coupled with the absence of Karolina Pliskova, who was ruled out earlier this week with a knee injury, it elevates Strycova to No. 1 singles for the Czechs against American No. 2 Kenin. Strycova and Kenin will be facing each other for the first time.

The second singles rubber on Saturday will match Czech No. 2 Katerina Siniakova against American No. 1 Alison Riske. Siniakova has beaten Riske twice in three career meetings, including a 2017 win in the final at Shenzhen, which was her first WTA title. Both are playing their fourth Fed Cup ties.

Following the reverse singles on Sunday, the doubles rubber will match the World No. 1 pair of Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic against Danielle Collins and Nicole Melichar of the United States. Collins and Melichar are both making their Fed Cup debut. Krejcikova was added to the Czech roster earlier this week to replace Pliskova.

Siniakova is the only player for either team who is expected to play both singles and doubles during the final. “I just try to work this week to be ready,” she said.

The host Czech Republic is chasing after its sixth Fed Cup title in eight years while the defending champion United States have captured 18 Fed Cup championships, most in Fed Cup history. The Czechs have won their last 10 home ties. This weekend’s final will be played on an indoor hard court.

The United States, undefeated in its last five ties since Kathy Rinaldi was named team captain in December 2016 – including last year’s final against Belarus – is 10-2 all-time against the Czech Republic in Fed Cup competition. The two nations have met twice in the finals – the Czechs won in 1985 and the U.S. won in 1986.

“Being a captain for last year and this year, every match you go into it you never underestimate any team,” said Rinaldi ahead of the weekend final. “These are the two teams with the most history in Fed Cup, the best record, so it’s very exciting.”

Fed Cup notes

• Play on Saturday begins at 2 p.m. local time (1 p.m. GMT) with the first rubber between Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic versus Sofia Kenin of the U.S. It will be followed by the second rubber between Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic versus Alison Riske of the U.S. On Sunday, play continues at noon local time (11 a.m. GMT) with the reverse singles followed by the doubles rubber.