After the Davis Cup served up some decent matches (looking at you Italy vs Japan) last weekend, the Fed Cup is in full swing this week with the lower group bands in action before the World Group begins tomorrow. A special shout out to Great Britain for a very fine 3-0 win over Portugal.
But turning my attention to the main players, how will things unfold:
Belarus vs Germany
On the surface you’d think this was a tie with lots of pedigree, but it isn’t quite the case. Belarus were finalists last year but have never won the competition despite Vika Azarenka’s heroics. Germany were champions but only during Graf’s heydays. Without Azarenka, Kerber and Goerges this is lacking a little sparkle and is a tough one to predict – but with the likes of Sabalenka in their camp and playing at home, I’m going with Belarus.
Czech Republic vs Switzerland
This is more like it, multi-champs the Czechs are looking to avenge last year’s semi-final loss to the USA ending a run of final appearances. What their opponents lack in historic success, they make up for in Timea Bacsinszky and Belinda Bencic. Both are struggling a little in the WTA rankings true, but both are more than capable of turning it on when it matters and proving the difference in a tight tie. Despite this, I’m plumping for Czech Republic – but it will be close.
France vs Belgium
Difficult again, the French are underpowered and – were it not for Kristina Mladenovic’s recent good run to the final in St Petersberg, would have looked even weaker. The promising young star has the quality and intimidation when on form to prove enough for the Belgians – even Aussie Open hero Mertens and reliable veteran Flipkens. France to sneak it.
USA vs Netherlands
Serena’s comeback will hog the headlines this weekend, but the Americans will have to stay focused if they are to prevail as the gulf in talent and experience between the team sheets suggests. USA should breeze through.