While we’re awaiting the Fed Cup final between the Czech Republic and defending champions USA to kick off on Saturday in Prague, the draw ceremony was held in the City Hall and both teams are facing the situation of missing star power.
Even though USA’s highest ranked players are Sloane Stephens, Serena Williams and Madison Keys, their Fed Cup team for the 2018 final consists of world No.63 Alison Riske, member of last year’s winning team, joined by three players competing in the Fed Cup for the first time — Danielle Collins, Sofia Kenin and Nicole Melichar.
American team captain Kathy Rinaldi, who is unbeaten in her five ties since taking over the captaincy last year, is optimistic and looking forward to leading her country to back-to-back Fed Cup titles:
We’re well prepared, we’ve done our homework, and now it’s just a matter of executing the game-plan and doing the best that we can. For the youngsters and the rookies, they’re super-excited. They know what an honour it is, they’re very appreciative of the opportunity, and they’re all feisty competitors. They’re going to give it their all, they’re going to lay it out there, and leave their heart and soul on that court.
When it comes to Czechs, who won the Fed Cup in five of the previous seven years, they first lost world No.8 Karolina Pliskova because of her calf and wrist injuries and then, on the eve of the tie, world No.7 Petra Kvitova withdrew from her opening singles rubber, due to illness, although the Czech No.1, who has a perfect 4-0 Fed Cup record in 2018, still hopes to be ready to play on Sunday.
Now the draw looks like this: Barbora Strycova, whose doubles skills were a major contribution in Czech Republic’s last two Fed Cup titles, will open the 2018 final by playing Sofia Kenin, followed by a battle between Katerina Siniakova and Alison Riske. On Sunday, Siniakova takes on Kenin, followed by Strycova vs. Riske, while doubles world No. 1s Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova are slated to play Danielle Collins and Nicole Melichar in the fifth match, Sunday’s doubles rubber.
The Czech Republic has had immense success in the Fed Cup in recent years, but there’s one thing they’ve been having trouble with — defeating the USA. The last time the Czechs defeated Americans was in 1985, before any of the current Czech Fed Cup players were even born. Now the Czechs are having a perfect chance to finally change that course on home soil. Despite missing Pliskova and at least to an extent Kvitova, Czech team is still very strong, however, American players are driven to prove themselves, so we can expect an exciting final in front of sold-out crowd in Prague’s O2 Arena.