2017 Fed Cup: RecapFebruary 15, 2017

Elina Svitolina, who recently won a tournament in Taipei, showed she was ready to crack the Top 10. The world number 13 lost her opening set to Ashleigh Barty, but she rebounded in the second set. She didn't have any trouble during the rest of the match. Daria Gavrilova, who led the Aussie squad, was no match to Svitolina. Lesia Tsurenko, currently ranked at 51, soundly beat Gavrilova in the first rubber. Ukraine advances to the playoffs this April, as Mikhail Filima's charges attempts to reach the World Group for the third time.

Dominika Cibulková's non-participation hardly affected the chances of Slovakia, winning the last three singles rubbers on the red dirt. 2010 French Open winner Francesca Schiavone and former world number five Sara Errani spearheaded the Italian team, but their best days seemed to be long gone. The Belgian team travelled to Bucharest, and they didn't have problems beating the Romanian squad in front of their home fans. Simona Halep missed the tie, as she suffered a left knee injury in St. Petersburg last week.

Belgium, Slovakia, and Ukraine, along with Russia, will meet France, Germany, Netherlands, and Spain in the playoffs. The would like their chances, as the French team seemed in disarray after losing to the Czech Republic in close finals. The French Tennis Federation might let Mary Pierce coach the French belles next year. (They rather prefer a mother hen instead of Yannick imitating James Bond in their group picture.) Germany, on the other hand, can't count on Angelique Kerber. (She was rather determined to regain the top ranking, as she skipped the Fed Cup to play in Doha this week.) And the German team's form has nothing to do with the playing of the Nazi-era German anthem in Hawaii. Garbiñe Muguruza had yet to regain the form that brought her to number two, as the Spanish team couldn't overpower the defending champion Czech team.

The Fed Cup semifinals, which will be held on April 22-23, would feature three unlikely semifinalists. The Czech Republic, bidding to win their four consecutive Fed Cup, and sixth in seven years, should be the prohibitive favourite at this point. Here's a preview:

Czech Republic vs. US. The American team that defeated the German squad didn't include the Wiliams sisters, Madison Keys, and Sloane Stephens. Kathy Rinaldi, the new US captain, must be delighted to have the tie played in home soil. The 1985 Wimbledon semifinalist would love to have Venus Williams and Keys leading the US squad. (Serena Williams had limited her schedule these last few years.) Coco Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands could be an unbeatable duo. There could be a huge chance that Petr Pála would call on Karolína Plíšková, Barbora Strýcová, and Lucie Šafářová, the same trio that competed against Spain last weekend. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) could make a gamble and choose clay. Both Williams and Keys were no slouch in the slow courts. It would be a big IF. The Czech team will prevail unless the top-ranked Americans would play this tie.

Belarus vs. Switzerland. Swiss coach Heinz Günthardt might not believe his luck, as the Swiss team found themselves in the bottom half of the draw. (The strongest teams would slug it out in the upper half.) They must play away from home, but it won't deter Timea Bacsinszky, Belinda Bencic, and Martina Hingis. Switzerland has yet to win the Fed Cup, reaching the finals in 1998. Apart from the French Open, this team title is the only thing missing in Hingis's resume. They might have a good chance if the finals will be played on Swiss soil.

The playoffs ties haven't been determined, but the Czech Republic and Switzerland are likely to contest the Fed Cup later this year. What do you think?

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