On Saturday and Sunday, the Fed Cup World Group ties get underway and there is plenty (perhaps too much) to sink your teeth into. TTI has cherry-picked some of this weekend’s standout matches.
Let’s not beat around the bush: some of the top players have treated Fed Cup a little bit like a visit to the in-laws, something that never quite fits your schedule, costs you a couple of days where you could have kicked back, and you have to do it more often than you’d like.
But it’s one of those years, particularly with summer Olympics in Rio looming on the horizon.
Players must make themselves available to participate in Fed Cup at least three times within the four years leading up to the 2016 games – and one of those ties has to be this year or next. As a result, Serena Williams’ time to celebrate and enjoy her 19th Slam win was cut short, having to travel from Melbourne to Buenos Aires. World No. 2 and Australian Open finalist Maria Sharapova headed straight to Krakow to fulfill her Fed Cup duties, as well.
With a total of 40 matches across World Group I and II, it’s easy to lose track of everything that’s going on over the course of the next two days, particularly with six of the eight ties occurring at roughly the same time.
Without further ado we’ll jump into five of the must-watch encounters of the weekend:
“Look who’s back in Poland already!”
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) – Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Sunday: 12pm local time, Krakow. Medium-paced indoor hard-court.
After her quarterfinal loss to Victoria Azarenka at the 2012 Australian Open, Radwanska was asked about the volume of on-court noise, with the World No. 8 complaining that she found certain grunting far too loud. The Russian took umbrage at the criticism, sardonically asking “Isn’t she back in Poland already?” Thanks to the beauty of Fed Cup, here they are in Krakow together.
Off-court snarky narratives aside, their hard-court encounters have usually been intriguing matches. Though their head-to-head appears one-sided at first glance, the crafty Pole has often found plenty of ways to frustrate her opponent, particularly indoors – see Istanbul (“RUN RUN!”) and Singapore.
With a rapturous crowd of 15,000 behind her, the hometown hero will be looking to get a win over Sharapova for the first time in almost three years – in a third rubber that will likely decide where the tie goes.
The five-time major champion is in the midst of a flying start to 2015, so it’s going to be a tough ask.
The Best Kept Secret
Camila Giorgi (ITA) – Alizé Cornet (FRA)
Saturday: 2nd match, roughly 4pm-5pm local time, Genoa. Indoor clay court.
Scoff all you want: this might have been the least known rivalry this time last year, but it was one of the most compelling. Cornet won a second round encounter in a Melbourne heatwave (celebrating in style) and another in the Katowice finals, but Giorgi took revenge in Strasbourg a few weeks later.
All of their encounters have gone the distance, with the Katowice finals making TTI’s Top 10 WTA matches of 2014. Both women might be two of the most enigmatic characters on Tour, but their games and on-court attitudes sit at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. That stark contrast has resulted in fun tennis and great entertainment on every level; there’s every chance that they’ll pick up where they left off in Genoa this weekend.
Simona Halep (ROU) – Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
Sunday: 12pm local time, Galati. Medium-fast indoor hard court.
In the absence of Carla Suarez Navarro, Romania should be heavy favorites to capture this World Group II tie. That doesn’t mean it lacks interesting rubbers, this re-match of a Wuhan second round being the prime example. In a three-set rollercoaster, Muguruza blasted winners off of both sides towards the end of the match. By contrast, Halep was struggling with her serve and failed to overcome the Spaniard’s intense depth and speed.
Last month, Muguruza played Serena Williams tough and despite coming up short, the 20 year-old looked in solid form to reach another major second week. The Romanian went one better Down Under, but the World No. 3 looked out of sorts and downright listless in losing to Ekaterina Makarova.
It’s going to be interesting to see whether Halep has managed to shake that performance out of her system or whether Muguruza will be able to keep up her giant-killing momentum.
“Playing outside of Fed Cup is just too mainstream”
Angelique Kerber (GER) – Samantha Stosur (AUS)
Sunday: 12.30pm local time, Stuttgart. Fast indoor hard court.
Kerber sealed the deal for Team Germany when she beat Stosur in Brisbane. In what has become a Fed Cup exclusive since the Aussie’s Slam winning run in 2011, this will be the third time in four years that they meet in this uniquely international competition.
Neither woman has had a particularly great start to the season. Kerber looked wobbly in her warm-up tournaments and Irina-Camelia Begu upset the German No. 1 in the first round of Melbourne a day after her 27th birthday. For Stosur it was another typical January, where she found it difficult to meet expectations at home.
Much like the other match-ups, both women play fairly different brands of tennis, with Kerber’s counterpunching contrasting the Australian’s heavy topspin on serve and forehand. The host country played it smart though with a fast indoor court that does a disservice to the game of the 2011 US Open Champion. The German lefty will not only feel at home in the Porsche Arena, but also even more so on a quick surface with a relatively low bounce.
“Y U SAY VAMOS?”
Sara Errani (ITA) – Alizé Cornet (FRA)
Sunday 12pm local time, Genoa. Indoor clay court.
…need I say more?
Which ties and matches are you most looking forward to this weekend? Sound off in the comments!