Fed Cup Finals: Czech Republic vs USA Preview

Tennis player holds racquet

Damien Kayat previews the finals of the Fed Cup which will pit the Czech Republic against the USA.

Fed Cup Finals | Czech Republic vs USA | O2 Arena, Prague

To Win Outright
Czech Republic 2/11
USA 32/10

Czech Republic
Petra Kvitiova
Barbora Strycova
Katerina Siniakova
Barbora Krejcikova

Coach: Petr Pala

This Czech Republic side can lay claim to perhaps being the most dominant side in Fed Cup history, having won five of the last seven instalments of the event. The tremendously successful Petr Pala will be hoping that her vintage Czech side can dethrone the most successful side in Fed Cup history: the United States. History is actually dead-set against Fed Cup’s current golden generation. The Czechs haven’t beaten the US since the 1985 Final, where Helena Sukova and Hana Mundikova won the title for the Eastern Europeans. Funnily enough it was only a year later that the American duo of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova (not shabby) reclaimed the Cup.

The Czech side have been rocked by the late withdrawal of Karolina Pliskova with a calf strain. The Czechs, however, have an embarrassment of riches, exemplified by the fact that Krysten Pliskova hasn’t even made the squad. Doubles specialist Barbora Krejcikova has come in to cover Pliskova, while Barbora Styrcova and Katerina Siniakova battle it out to partner Petra Kvitova in the singles rubbers. Kvitova has opted not to train this week due to fever. But all reports seem to suggest she should be available for the weekend’s clash. Kvitova has enjoyed a brilliant comeback season but did look quite jaded in the season-ending Tour Finals. I think that is where the more inexperienced side may have an edge. They really have nothing to lose and this represents the peak moment of their season.

Danielle Collins 
Sofia Kenin
Alison Riske
Nicole Melicha

Coach: Kathy Rinaldi

Kathy Rinaldi took over the reins of the United States side from Mary Joe Fernandez in early 2017. Few could have envisaged the effect that she would have on a side that had become something of a floundering behemoth in female tennis. Between 2010 and 2017, the US side had won a fairly ordinary six of 12 Fed Cup ties. Since Rinaldi’s renaissance, the side has won five consecutive matches and will be looking to make it back-to-back titles in Prague this weekend. The most successful side in the history of the Fed Cup has undergone a radical transformation, investing time in youth and fostering a sense of togetherness.

Looking at them on paper, one would feel justifiably concerned about this American side’s chances. Their top ranked player Danielle Collins is actually ranked below the top three players in the current Czech Republic squad. But what they lack in star-power, they more than make up for in youth and vibrancy. Part of Rinaldi’s success has been her astute acknowledgement of the changing nature of this event. Gone are the days that the Fed Cup is valorised as an integral part of the calendar. The Majors have become so dominant in modern tennis that these team events seem to occur in a vacuum. Rinaldi seems to have recognised that the premium stars of the tour are largely disinterested in this event, while the young up-and-coming players are extremely motivated. This is highlighted by the fact that America’s four top players – the Williams’ sisters, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens- have opted out of this event in advance. But that shouldn’t affect Rinaldi’s side; in fact I think it motivates them further. The top players have filtered in and out of the side while these youngsters have grown immensely.

Verdict: USA 32/10
32/10 for the States looks very appealing looking at their recent form. Yes they have it all stacked against them. They are playing a side full of more established players on their home turf. But with the favourite’s tag comes pressure, particularly at home. Add to that the slightly chaotic nature of the Czech camp- what with Pliskova’s withdrawal and Kvitova’s fever- and you get the impression that USA at 32/10 could be enticing. They are an established side with supreme togetherness. 

I believe the States will win a tight match 3-2. Nicole Melicha has enjoyed a breakthrough season on the double’s tour, winning the Mixed Double’s Title at Wimbledon whilst also reaching the Wimbledon Final. I can see her and possibly Alison Riske winning that double’s tie. 

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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