Madrid, October 31 (EFE). The fight for success in the most important women’s team tennis competition returns to the fore after the hiatus caused by Covid-19, with a new name, the Billie Jean King Cup, the creator of the format. France had twelve nominees for the crown in the last edition.
Nearly two years have passed since the French national team defeated Australia in Perth, and it is still under the name of the FA Cup, to add its third title in its history. It is still a far cry from the legendary dominance that the United States still holds, at eighteen years, and the Czech Republic in the last decade has collected six of the eleven crowns that stand out in their facades. It comes behind Australia seven times, although most recently in 1974, and Spain, which monopolized glory in women’s tennis in the 1990s from the hands of Arantexa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez.
Prague is the first and only venue for the final stage of the tournament that brings together dozens of candidates over the course of the next week, from 1 to 6 November. Convenient place, the cradle of rackets that have recently prevailed in this tournament.
However, only five of the top twenty players in the world, only two of the top ten, will be at the O2 Arena in the Czech capital: local Barbora Krejsikova, fourth, Swiss Belinda Bencic, ninth, German Angelique Kerber, twelfth, Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, sixth Eleven, Belgian Elise Mertens, twentieth.
The proximity of the WTA Finals in Guadalajara (Mexico) or the decision to end the season, as in the case of Australian number one Ashleigh Barty, caused more injuries than expected.
However, the event is full of incentives, challenges and outstanding accounts. Four groups of three teams will face each other in the first stage. Only the winner will advance to the semi-finals where the finalists and subsequent champions of the competition will appear.
France, as champions, and Australia as runners-up to the last edition, had direct access to this final stage, as did the Czech Republic as hosts and Canada, which received a direct invite. The other eight contenders, Germany, Belgium, Belarus, Slovakia, Spain, the United States, Russia and Switzerland, secured their places in a qualifying round.
Each match will be the best of three matches, two singles and one doubles. France, Australia, the United States, and the Czech Republic are beginning to form the table as seeds.
The first group consists of France, the Russian Federation and Canada. B with Australia, Belarus and Belgium; C is made up of the United States, Spain and Slovakia, and D is led by the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland.
Led by Julien Benneteau and made up of three of the four players who won the title two years ago: Alize Cornet, Caroline Garcia and Fiona Ferro, bolstered by former youngster Clara Borrell, the French team begins their title defense against Canada.
The Canadian team was weakened by the loss of US Open runner-up Bianca Andreescu, Leila Fernandez. The team consists of Rebecca Marino, Françoise Abanda, Gabriela Dabrowski and Carol Gau with Sylvain Bruno as captain.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, finalist at Roland Garros, is the main asset of the Russian Federation as a whole, which consists of five players who are ranked among the fifty best players in the world. Besides Pavlyuchenkova, the team directed by Igor Andreev consists of Daria Kasatkina, Veronika Kudermitova, Ekaterina Alexandrova and Lyudmila Samsonova. They are one of the strongest groups in the competition.
Australia, who finished second in the last edition and a seven-time winner, face Belarus, who reached the finals four seasons ago, and Belgium, who dropped out of the cup two decades ago.
Agla Tomljanovic leads the Oceanic team coached by Alicia Molik who does not own top seed Ashleigh Barty. Stor Sanders, Elaine Perez, Olivia Jadeke, Priscilla Hone and Daria Gavrilova rounded out the Australian team.
Australia will have to deal in Group B with the balance of Belarus, made up of a team whose loss is marked by the loss of Arina Sabalenka, the second player in the world, and Victoria Azarenka. Still Tatiana Bochik has Alexandra Sasnovich, newcomer Yulia Hatoka, Lidzia Marozava, Irina Shimanovich and Vera Labko.
Elise Mertens will not miss her date with Belgium. The best Belgian player, 20th in the world singles and first in the doubles, leads the quartet selected by Johan van Herjk facing Australia and Belarus. Salute Minin, Essaline Bonaventura and Christine Flipkins around the team.
Spain is rushing with its options that were weakened by the last-minute victim of Garbine Muguruza and Paula Padusa, who will face the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. Annabelle Medina turned to Alyona Bolsava and newcomer Rebecca Massarova to complete the roster made up of Sarah Soribes, Nuria Barezas and Carla Suarez, who will have their last competitions before they retire.
With this team, the Spanish team faces the United States and Slovakia who make up Group C. The North American team, the most awarded team in history with eighteen titles, goes to Prague with a lineup made up of Daniel Collins, Shelby Rogers and Sloane Stephens. and CoCo Vandeweghe and Caroline Dolhide. Coach Cathy Rinaldi could not count on the best in the ranking, Sofia Kenin.
Slovakia seems to have given up on its best times, although it always makes the most of the talent of its players and the performance of its quarry. Mate Liptak chose Anna Karolina Schmidlova, Kristina Kokova, Rebecca Sramkova, Victoria Kozmova and Teresa Mihalikova.
The Czech Republic starts as a favorite in Group D. In addition to being the host country, the level of its members boosts their expectations despite not having their best players. Not the third Karolina Pliskova in the world, nor the seventeenth Petra Kvitova.
Peter Balla will lead the world’s third team, Roland Garros singles and doubles champion Barbora Krejsikova, along with Marketa Vondrosova, Teresa Martinkova, Katerina Siniakova and Lucy Hradika.
Belinda Bencic, ninth in the world, leads the whole of Switzerland. The Olympic champion in Tokyo is a staple of the Heinz Guenthardt team completed by Jul Teichmann, Viktorija Golubic and Stefanie Voegele.
Former number one Angelique Kerber is the hope of Germany’s national team, led by Rainer Schuettler. For the first time in the team since 2018, the veteran tennis player, twelfth in the standings, is cheered by Andrea Petkovic, another consistent player in the German team and Anna-Lena Friedsam. Young men Jule Niemeier and Nastasja Schunk completed the German team.
(c) EFE . Agency