Daria Gavrilova vs Marta Kostyuk, Fed Cup Preview

Fed Cup WG 2: Australia vs Ukraine, Rubber 2
🇦🇺 Daria Gavrilova vs 🇺🇦 Marta Kostyuk

Saturday’s second rubber in the Fed Cup world group 2 tie between Australia and Ukraine promises to be the most important rubber of the entire tie. Ash Barty is expected to comfortably get past Lyudmyla in the opening rubber to give Australia a 1-0 lead in Canberra. Marta Kostyuk is clearly Ukraine’s most dangerous player in their squad, Kostyuk has had a great Australian summer and can make this tie interesting with an upset win over Gavrilova.

Daria Gavrilova had a reasonable Australian summer. The 23-year-old reached the semi-finals at the Sydney International before falling at the second round stage at Melbourne Park to eventual semi-finalist Elise Mertens. Gavrilova has shown commitment to the Australian Fed Cup team over the last few years but has not had the best results in this format, a 2/3 win/loss record in singles Fed Cup matches.

Marta Kostyuk will be making her Fed Cup debut. As the highest ranked player for Ukraine in Canberra, there is a lot of pressure on the 15-year-old to give a good account of herself. Kostyuk is on a high right now. Kostyuk is at a career high ranking of 185 after winning the ITF Burnie 60K title last week which followed her impressive run to the third round at the Australian Open in January. Kostyuk is the youngest player ranked inside the top 200 in almost 10 years.

This will be the first career meeting between Gavrilova and Kostyuk.

Ashleigh Barty vs Lyudmyla Kichenok, Fed Cup Preview

Fed Cup WG 2: Australia vs Ukraine, Rubber 1
🇦🇺 Ashleigh Barty vs 🇺🇦 Lyudmyla Kichenok

Ashleigh Barty and Lyudmyla Kichenok will go head-to-head in the opening rubber of the world group 2 tie between Australia and Ukraine on Saturday. The tie will be held on a purpose built grass court in Canberra. On paper this is a gigantic mismatch, world number 16 up against world number 883. Barty will be keen to make a statement in the opening rubber to set the tone for tie in Canberra. Interestingly, this will be the first tennis at the highest level played on grass in 2018.

Ash Barty spearheads Australia’s quest to return to World Group 1. Barty had a good Australian summer, reaching the final at the Sydney International and the third round at the Australian Open. Barty and the rest of the Australian team have been practising on the purpose built grass court in Canberra for about a week. Barty is extremely comfortable on a grass court, Barty won the junior title at Wimbledon and last year reached the final on grass in Birmingham.

Lyudmyla Kichenok has not played a competitive singles match in over 5 months. Instead, the 25-year-old has been focused on her doubles career where she has a decent ranking of 45 in the world. Kichenok’s doubles results during the Aussie summer were poor. Kichenok has a small amount of fed Cup experience having played in 5 ties. The last time Kichenok played a Fed Cup singles rubber was back in 2014.

The only previous match between the pair took place at Wimbledon in 2014, Barty won 6-3 7-5 in the final round of the qualifying draw.

Fed Cup World R1: Czech Republic vs Spain Day 1 Preview

Fed Cup: WG R1: 🇨🇿 Czech Republic vs 🇪🇸 Spain

The Czech Republic will begin their Fed Cup title defense with a tricky opening round tie against Spain at the Ostravar Arena in the Czech Republic. The Czech ladies have been dominant in recent years having won the competition in the last three years and four of the last five. In 2017, the Czech team will be without their leader Petra Kvitova as she is expected to be sidelined due to injury for the entire year. The Czech Republic will still be the team to beat in 2017 led by Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Strycova and Lucie Safarova.

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Simona Halep vs Petra Kvitova, Fed Cup Preview

Fed Cup WG1 R1: Simona Halep vs Petra Kvitova

A blockbuster clash on Sunday in Cluj-Napoca sees Simona Halep come up against Petra Kvitova. The World Group 1 tie between Romania and the Czech Republic is level at 1 win apiece heading into this crucial clash which will go a long way to deciding which nation emerges victorious. Both Simona and Petra suffered disappointing losses on Saturday in the first singles matches and therefore will be extremely desperate to record a victory here.

 

Simona Halep has postponed surgery to her nose in order to compete in this crucial Fed Cup tie for Romania. However, Simona was unable to make the kind of contribution she would have expected on Saturday in the opening rubber of the tie, succumbing to Karolina Pliksova 7-6 4-6 2-6. It was Simona’s first ever loss to Pliskova, the world number 3 won all 3 of their previous encounters in straight sets. Simona was extremely emotional throughout the match which seemed to be one of her biggest problems especially towards the end of the second and third sets. It will be interesting to see how Simona responds when she comes up against a fired up Petra Kvitova on Sunday.

After Pliskova defeated Halep in the opening rubber the tie seemed almost over as it seemed a formality that Kvitova would beat Niculescu and give the Czech’s a 2-0 lead. However, Kvitova produced an erratic performance and was unable to adjust to Niculescu’s unorthodox game suffering a shock 3-6 4-6 loss. Petra usually performs so well when she is representing the Czech Republic at the Fed Cup, she has now lost two Fed Cup rubbers in a row after she lost against Sharapova in the Fed Cup Final last year and will head into Sunday’s important rubber desperate to turn things around.

 

Simona Halep holds a 2-0 head-to-head record over Petra Kvitova. The Romanian defeated Kvitova in straight sets in the New Haven final back in 2013 and recorded a three set victory over the Czech in Madrid in 2014. This will be a very different clash under very different circumstances and I expect to see a different result.

Petra Kvitova is a proven champion and will highly likely bounce back with a vastly improved performance after a disappointing loss on Saturday. Whilst Simona Halep often struggles under pressure and I am less confident that she can reverse her poor form. I can see that this is a troublesome match-up for Kvitova when she is not playing well but I expect her to really come out firing on Sunday, this is the type of match that she often plays her best tennis.

Prediction: Petra Kvitova to defeat Simona Halep in 2 sets

World Group R1 Preview: Romania vs Czech Republic

World Group R1: Romania vs Czech Republic

The Czech Republic team will begin their Fed Cup titles defense with a tricky away tie in Romania. The Czech girls have been dominant in recent years, being crowned champions in four of the last five years and again loom as one of the favourites in 2016. The Czech girls will be wary of a strong Romanian team and will know that they need to play at high level to get through this potentially difficult first round tie.

The Czech Republic’s amazing results over the last few years have been due to the dedication of the nation’s star players. Petra Kvitova has been the spearhead of every campaign and has always prioritised competing for her nation in Fed Cup. whilst Lucie Safarova, Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova have been very handy support acts. The Czech team has great depth, something that most of their rivals could only dream of having.

The Czech team will be without Lucie Safarova for this first round tie with Romania as Lucie continues to recover from a bacterial illness which kept her out of the entire Australian summer. Their team is still strong, with Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Strycova and Denisa Allertova set to take to the courts.

 

The Romanian team’s progression into the world group was one of the biggest shocks in 2015. The Romanian team defied the odds to win an away tie against Canada without Simona Halep in the world group play-off. The Romanian’s couldn’t have asked for a tougher introduction to the world group, coming up against the two-time defending champions. However, the Romanian team will fancy their chances at home with Simona Halep on board. The Romanian number 1 has indicated that she will undergo surgery on her nose in the coming weeks but has decided to postpone her surgery in order to represent Romania in this crucial tie. Simona Halep will be aided by Monica Niculescu, Andreea Mitu and Raluca Olaru who is late replacement for an injured Irina-Camelia Begu.

Romania’s competitiveness in this tie will depend on the form of Simona Halep. The Romanian number 1 will probably have to win both of her singles matches to give the hosts a chance in this tie. However, that seems unlikely given Simona’s rocky start to the season which saw her struggle with injury in the lead up to the Australian Open before ultimately suffering a shock first round exit in Melbourne. There will be a lot of pressure on Simona in this tie in front of her home crowd, it will be interesting to see how Simona handles the occasion given her tendency to struggle under pressure and her form concerns heading into the weekend. What is in Simona’s favour is that she has never lost to either Petra Kvitova or Karolina Pliksova, her likely opponents this weekend.

I suspect the Czech team will be too strong here and should win this tie before there is any needs for a doubles rubber. Petra Kvitova also thrives in the Fed Cup atmosphere and will see this as a massive opportunity to claim a maiden win over Simona Halep. Both Kvitova and Pliskova should win their matches against Monica Niculescu and therefore they can claim victory with one win over Halep which seems highly likely given Simona’s recent struggles.

Prediction: Czech Republic to defeat Romania 3-1

Fed Cup Final Czech Republic vs Russia, Day 2 Match Previews & Predictions

Fed Cup Final Czech Republic vs Russia, Day 2 Match Previews & Predictions

 The final day of the Fed Cup final in Prague promises to be an epic. The tie is perfectly poised after Day 1 where Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova picked up victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Karolina Pliskova. The tie is squared at 1 win apiece with the reverse singles rubbers and perhaps a doubles match to come on Day 2 to decide the 2015 Fed Cup champion on Sunday.

Match 3: Petra Kvitova vs Maria Sharapova

The blockbuster match that we have all been waiting for between Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova will kick-start proceedings on Day 2 of the Fed Cup final in Prague. With the tie squared at 1 win apiece, this clash looms as the most important rubber of the tie when the two leaders of each team go head-to-head.

Petra Kvitova continued her stunning Fed Cup record on Saturday, recording a 2-6 6-1 6-1 victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening rubber of the tie. Kvitova has now won 21 of her last 23 Fed Cup singles matches. Petra made a wayward start to the match, committing far too many unforced errors to gift the opening set to Pavlyuchenkova. Petra really raised her level in the second and third sets and the Russian couldn’t keep up. Kvitova will enter this clash full of confidence after beating Maria a couple of weeks ago at the semi-final stage of the WTA Finals in Singapore.

 

Maria Sharapova made a winning start to her first ever Fed Cup final campaign on Saturday courtesy of a 6-3 6-4 victory over Karolina Pliskova. The pressure was totally on Maria heading into this match, a loss for Russia would have left them 0-2. Maria responded like a true champion, aggressively dictating the play from start to finish and silencing the Czech crowd in the process. Maria is on a mission this week and will have had her eyes set on a rematch with Kvitova ever since her loss to the Czech at the WTA Finals in Singapore last month.

Maria Sharapova holds a 6-4 head-to-head record over Kvitova, however Petra has won the last 2 meetings between the pair. Both of those victories came in Singapore, a 6-3 7-6 win last month and a 6-3 6-2 win last year.

This promises to be a fierce encounter with so much on the line. Kvitova’s Fed Cup record is impressive, but if anyone can stop her, it is Maria. I fancy a determined Sharapova to get the job done here and place the Russian team in the driver’s seat on Day 2. It’s hard to see Maria losing to Petra 3 times in a row, she simply will not let that happen.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Petra Kvitova in 3 sets

 

Match 4: Karolina Pliskova vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

The pressure of the Fed Cup final will fall to Karolina Pliskova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova when the two meet in the extremely important fourth rubber, this match could potentially be the decisive rubber, one of these ladies will have the opportunity to end the tie depending on the result of the first match of the day. This is a massive opportunity for two relatively inexperienced players to stand up and make a real impact.

 

It was a shock decision to see Karolina Pliskova be chosen to play Maria Sharapova instead of Lucie Safarova in the opening singles rubber. Karolina was unable to seriously challenge the Russian number 1, suffering a 3-6 4-6 loss. Karolina didn’t serve particularly well and was made to look quite powerless as Sharapova dictated proceedings. It has been a long year for Karolina, the Czech has played more games than anyone else on the WTA tour in the last 12 months. Perhaps Karolina is understandably running out of gas.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova looked like causing a massive boilover in the opening match the tie on Saturday when she stormed past Petra Kvitova to take the opening set. However the Russian’s resistance gradually decreased as Petra Kvitova raised her level, the Czech eventually secured a 2-6 6-1 6-1 victory. Despite the loss, there were some positive signs for Pavlyuchenkova, she will certainly fancy her chances against Pliskova on Sunday.

 

Karolina won the only previous encounter between the pair 6-2 6-4 earlier this year in Dubai. I expect the score to be very different on this occasion. I feel like Pavlyuchenkova is fresher mentally and physically heading into this match and will also deal with the situation much better.

Pliskova has played a lot of tennis this year and has seemed to struggling physically in her last few tournaments, furthermore her record in big matches this year has been very poor. Pavlyuchenkova certainly has much more variety, better movement and her game is generally much more solid. Karolina didn’t serve particularly well on Saturday, and will need to improve quite significantly if she is to get the job done here. Pavlyuchenkova’s form has generally been better in the last couple of months, I think Pavlyuchenkova can win this one.

Prediction: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Karolina Pliskova in 3 sets

Fed Cup Final Czech Republic vs Russia, Day 1 Match Previews & Predictions

Fed Cup Final: Czech Republic vs Russia, Day 1 Match Previews & Predictions

The 2015 Fed Cup final promises to be an epic when a Petra Kvitova led Czech Republic takes on a Maria Sharapova led Russia at the 02 Arena in Prague. The Czech Republic have been dominant in recent years, having won the tournament in 3 of the last 4 years. Petra Kvitova has been the spearhead in each campaign, winning 20 of 22 Fed Cup singles matches since 2011. Saturday’s singles matches will be critical to the final outcome, Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova will be the strong favourites, an upset in either match will change the outlook of the entire tie. 

 

Match 1: Petra Kvitova vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

The pressure will be fully on Petra Kvitova when she comes up against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first match of the 2015 Fed Cup final on Saturday in Prague. It is extremely important for Kvitova to win this match and get the Czech Republic off to a winning start, a loss here would likely see Russia end day 1 with a 2-0 lead given Maria Sharapova will start a very strong favourite against Karolina Pliskova in the second match of the day.

Both Kvitova and Pavlyuchenkova showed good form in the later stages of the season. Kvitova reached the final at the WTA Finals in Singapore, however she did finish the tournament with 2 wins and 3 losses. Importantly, Kvitova did defeat Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, which will give her confidence heading into the reverse singles rubber against the Russian number 1.

 

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s recent indoor form has been great, she will certainly be no pushover. Pavlyuchenkova claimed the title in Linz before reaching the final in Moscow, amassing a 19 match winning streak at indoor events before falling to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final in Moscow. Pavlyuchenkova will enter her match against Kvitova with nothing to lose, she isn't expected to win this match, making her a very dangerous opponent given her ability on this surface. 

Petra Kvitova holds a 6-3 head-to-head record over Pavlyuchenkova, on hard courts Petra’s head-to-head lead over the Russian is just 4-3. Kvitova won the only meeting between the pair in 2015, recording a 6-1 6-4 win over Pavlyuchenkova on route to claiming the title in Madrid.

This is a really tough match to call, Kvitova has to start the clear favourite but I wouldn't be surprised to see an upset. Pavlyuchenkova’s record at indoor events cannot be ignored and she often raises her level in big matches at big events. It has been a really season for Kvitova, plagued by illness, I believe Kvitova is vulnerable this week. This should be a really close match and could very well end in a victory for Russia. 

Prediction: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Petra Kvitova in 3 sets

 

Match 2: Karolina Pliskova vs Maria Sharapova

The Czech Republic made a surprise decision to give Karolina Pliskova the nod over Lucie Safarova to play in Saturday’s opening singles rubber. Karolina will face the ultimate test when she comes up against Maria Sharapova who is playing in her first Fed Cup final. Maria will be desperate to add a Fed Cup title to her resume, it is extremely important for Russia that Maria wins both of her singles matches. This will be the very first meeting between Karolina and Maria.

 

Karolina Pliskova and Maria Sharapova also bring good form into the event. Pliskova reached the final in Zhuhai whilst Maria Sharapova reached the semi-final stage at the WTA Finals in Singapore before falling to Petra Kvitova. Both Karolina and Maria showed good form during the group stages at each event where they both went unbeaten.

It will be interesting to see how Karolina matches up against Maria in their very first meeting. Karolina is certainly one of very few players on tour that has the firepower to match Maria from the service line and from the baseline. However Maria’s experience level and record in big matches is far greater and could be a major factor in this match-up.

I suspect a determined Maria Sharapova will be far too good for Karolina Pliskova on this occasion. Maria always raises her level on occasions like this, the hostile Prague crowd should bring out the best Sharapova. It will be tough for Pliskova to keep up with Maria.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Karolina Pliskova in 2 sets

Sara Errani vs Alize Cornet Preview, Fed Cup World Group 1

Strong performances by Sara Errani and Camila Giorgi lifted Italy to a commanding 2-0 lead over France in their world group first round tie. However the tie is certainly not over, France are still a fighting chance. Alize Cornet will need to defeat Sara Errani first up on sunday to keep the tie alive.

Sara Errani proved too solid for Caroline Garcia in the opening rubber of the tie. Errani prevailed in two very tight sets 7-6 7-5 in just under two hours. It was always going to be a tough ask for Garcia to defeat Errani on her beloved clay surface in front of a vocal home crowd. Garcia had the right idea, she was by far the more aggressive of the two however her execution would ultimately let her down.

 

Camila Giorgi produced a stunningly consistent performance to cruise to a dominant 6-4 6-2 victory over Alize Cornet. Giorgi hit just one double fault for the entire match, which is quite incredible by her usual standards. Her consistent serving paid off, Alize was unable to break the Italian’s serve for the entire match, struggling to deal with the power of Giorgi.

These two were involved in a now infamous altercation in Toronto back in 2013, check out the video below! We can expect to see more drama this time around with so much on the line.

Alize Cornet and Sara Errani have a colourful history. Surprisingly, The Italian has a commanding 4-1 record over Alize. Their most recent encounter took place almost exactly one year ago, Errani prevailed 7-6 3-6 7-6 in a marathon semi-final match at the Paris indoor event. The match went for a touch over three hours, there was very little to separate the pair. On clay the head to head record is split 1-1, this promises to be another extremely tight affair.

This is a very tough match to call, I think Alize will produce a spirited performance to keep the tie alive. If Alize plays consistent, smart tennis she is the better player, even on clay. Alize thrives in situations like this whilst Errani is known to get a little tight.

Prediction: Alize Cornet to defeat Sara Errani in 3 sets

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Maria Sharapova Preview, Fed Cup World Group 1

In their first world group appearance in 21 years, Poland have an almighty mountain to climb on Sunday as they find themselves down 0-2 against a powerful Russian side. Svetlana Kuznetsova’s 6-4 2-6 6-2 upset victory over a lacklustre Agnieszka Radwanska in the first match of the tie put Poland on the back foot. Ula then proved to be no match for Maria Sharapova in the second match of the day, succumbing 0-6 3-6. Aga must now beat Maria Sharapova to give Poland a fighting chance on Sunday.

Aga’s performance on Saturday was extremely disappointing. The Pole hit an uncharacteristic 43 unforced errors in what was one of her worst performances in recent times. After comfortably winning the second set and with the local crowd right behind her, the stage was set for Aga to go on and win the match. However Kuznetsova was not to be denied, she was the braver of the two and she was awarded the victory to put Russia in a commanding position.

 

Maria Sharapova raced out of the blocks in the second match of the day, steamrolling through the opening set in impressive fashion. Ula raised her level in the second set and momentarily led Sharapova midway through the opening set 3-2. However Sharapova would ultimately prove too strong for her younger opponent, cruising to a 6-3 6-0 victory to give Russia a 2-0 lead heading into Sunday’s reverse singles rubbers.

Maria Sharapova has a commanding 11-2 head to head record over Aga. However the one sided record makes the head-to-head look more lopsided than it really is. 5 of Maria’s victories have been in three sets, the two have played out some exhausting matches, especially at the year end championships. The surface in Krakow is similar to those in Istanbul and Singapore where Aga has pushed Maria over the past few years.

 

Their most recent encounter took place in Singapore where Sharapova prevailed 7-5 6-7 6-2. However Maria needed to win in straight sets to advance to the semi-finals whilst one set was enough for Aga to advance to the final four. Maria looked destined for a semi-final appearance when she led 7-5 5-1, however Aga produced a spirited fightback to take the second set in a tiebreaker and end Sharapova’s season.

Aga has not defeated Maria since the 2012 Miami final where she stunned the Russian to win the biggest title of her career to date. The Pole has always troubled Maria on slow hard courts and has a reasonable chance to halt a string of four consecutive losses to Maria.

However after Aga’s spiritless performance on Saturday it’s hard to see her taking a set of Maria let alone winning the match. Originally I thought Aga would win this, however I have to change my mind after yesterday’s results.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Aga Radwanska in 2 sets

Urszula Radwanska vs Maria Sharapova Preview, Fed Cup World Group R1

The biggest moment in Urszula Radwanska’s young career will take on place on Saturday when comes up against Maria Sharapova in front of a capacity home crowd. Maria will be the heavy favourite in this match, a rare Fed Cup appearance by the world number 2.

Maria Sharapova will make her first Fed Cup appearance since early 2012 and her first away appearance since Russia’s infamous trip to Israel in 2008. Maria arrives in Krakow full of confidence after a successful Australian summer. Maria claimed the first major title of the season in Brisbane where she defeated Ana Ivanovic in the final before a successful run to the final at the Australian Open where she succumbed to Serena Williams for a sixteenth consecutive occasion in what was a highly competitive final.

 

After a disappointing 2014, Ula has started 2015 off reasonably well. Ula came through qualifiers to reach the quarter-finals in Auckland before successfully coming through the qualifying draw at Melbourne Park. Ula did however suffer a first round exit in Melbourne, defeated by Zarina Diyas in three sets.

 

Maria Sharapova won the only previous match between the two, a 6-4 7-5 victory in Los Angeles all the way in 2009. Maria has made such an impressive start to the season, it’s hard to see Ula causing too many problems for the world number two. Ula doesn't really have any weapons to trouble Maria and she doesn't really have the movement to put a lot of pressure on Maria. This should be a relatively comfortable victory for Sharapova.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Urszula Radwanska in 2 sets