Fed Cup – Czechs holding all the aces

The Czech Republic have been the dominant force in the Fed Cup in recent times and that standing should remain in place, when they face the United States in the 2018 final in Prague.

The USA may be the holders of the trophy, but the Czechs took the honours in five of the previous six years, enjoying a dominance not seen since the Americans and Australians ruled the roost through the 1970s and early 80s. And they are rightly 1.18 to defeat their visitors this weekend.

Their cause this time around has been hampered by the loss to a calf injury of Karolina Pliskova, but it is the USA, who are 4.60 to win in Prague, who really have selection problems to contend with.

Absences hurt American hopes

Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys were the players on show, as the Netherlands and France were ousted on the way to the final, but none of that quartet will be in action in Prague.

That leaves captain Kathy Rinaldi to pick from further down the rankings, including several players who have never previously played in the Fed Cup.

Danielle Collins, Sofia Kenin and Alison Riske are the singles players, with Nicole Melichar in place as a further option for the doubles. However, Rinaldi is unlikely to be too daunted, as she has yet to taste defeat in five matches as the US skipper.

Also on the American side is the history that they have never lost to the Czech Republic in the tournament, with a 1985 loss to Czechoslovakia their last defeat to the ‘same’ opponents.

Kvitova key to Czech hopes

While the US outfit is almost totally lacking in experience of such a big team event, the hosts have a mountain of experience solely in the shape of Petra Kvitova.

The two-time Wimbledon champion has played in all five recent Czech successes and adding another to her CV would see tie for joint-third place in the list of all-time winners, with just Chris Evert and Billie Jean King ahead of her.

The left-hander won all four of her singles matches as Switzerland and Germany were despatched on the way to the finals, although having won five tournaments in the first half of the year, Kvitova has seen her form dip in more recent times.

Backing up Kvitova in the absence of Pliskova is Barbora Strycova, although Czech captain Petr Pala has the comparative luxury of having Katerina Siniakova as a more than useful third option.

The 22-year-old made good progress in singles this year, reaching the third round in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments. However, it is in the doubles arena that Siniakova has enjoyed a stellar year, with her and partner Barbora Krejcikova claiming the titles at both the French Open and Wimbledon.

And, should the final against the USA reach the decisive doubles rubber after four singles clashes, then recent form suggests that Siniakova and Krejcikova will be able to get the Czechs over the line.