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.