Draws announced for 2016 Fed Cup play-offsFebruary 16, 2016

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced the draws for the Fed Cup on April 16-17. The USA and Australia, which have 24 titles between them, will go head-to-head in this classic matchup. Samantha Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion, won both her singles matches in the World Group II tie against Slovakia. She was the difference in the Aegon Arena.

“That just goes to show what Sam can produce under pressure. How well she carried us, I can't say more words to commend her efforts this weekend," captain Alicia Molik said.

Australia will host the tie, where the winner advances to the World Group next year. Mary Joe Fernandez, the US captain, has many things to consider. The participation of Serena Williams is out of the question, as she has nagging injuries to deal with. Venus Williams won both her singles matches in America's World Group II tie against Poland, but it might be a different story if it would be played on clay. Stosur has the edge. (Her game would be similar to the Spanish players, who honed their game on dirt.) The US team will get a boost if Madison Keys will make it. Sloane Stephens, who won a tournament in Auckland last month, would be an invaluable member, while Bethanie Mattek Sands could be a key player in the doubles match. Anything can happen here. Australia might cause an upset.

The other matchups will see Romania hosting Germany, Italy travelling to Spain, and Belarus playing on Russian soil. The German squad lost to the Swiss team in front of home fans. It was a heartbreaker. (They were counting on Angelique Kerber, the Australian Open champion. But Belinda Bencic beat her in straight sets.) They can return to the World Group next year, as Germany is the stronger team. On the other hand, the tie between Italy and Spain is an intriguing one. It will likely be played in clay, and Garbiñe Muguruza may be too much for the Italians. Anastasia Myskina's squad won't have much trouble unless Victoria Azarenka travels to Russia.

Who will advance to the finals?

Amélie Mauresmo was an active player when France achieved its best result in this team competition. They reached the finals for three straight years, while winning the Fed Cup in 2003. The two-time Grand Slam champion is the captain of the young French team, and they will play Netherlands at home. Expect France to reach the finals for the fifth time.

The other semifinals pit Czech Republic against Switzerland. The two-time defending champion will play in front of the Swiss crowd, and this one is hard to predict. The Swiss will win this one if Petra Kvitová, Karolína Plíšková, and Lucie Šafářová are not in top form.

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