February 13, 2016

Fed Cup World Group II R1: Belarus fends off spirited fight from Canada

Françoise Abanda

Françoise Abanda

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

(February 7, 2016) QUEBEC CITY – It came down to the finish line, but Belarus pulled off the 3-2 win against Canada in their Fed Cup World Group II first round encounter played in Quebec City. Starting the day tied at one, Françoise Abanda gave an early 2-1 lead to the host team, before Aliaksandra Sasnovich won her second match of the week to force a deciding doubles match. The local duo of Gabriela Dabrowski and Carol Zhao then lost to more-experienced Sasnovich and Olga Govortsova to send Belarus into the World Group I play-offs. It was Zhao’s first ever match in Fed Cup.

While Canada is technically ranked higher in the ITF nations ranking, Belarus started off the weekend as clear favorites, despite the last minute withdrawal of their top player Victoria Azarenka. Both Govortsova and Sasnovich are ranked in the top 100 of the WTA rankings, while Canada had no players ranked in the top 300. Nevertheless, Aleksandra Wozniak, a former top 30 player coming back from injury, and Françoise Abanda, a former junior top 5 player, both have had inspired Fed Cup performances in the past.

First up were Govorstova and Abanda. Right from the start, Govortsova, showed better form than in her loss yesterday to Wozniak. The Belarussian would take control of the points early, keep Abanda on the move and finish off at the net, a fruitful strategy which gave her an early 4-2 lead. But errors then started to creep in, while Abanda took advantage of weaker second serves. The Canadian reeled off the last four games and won all eleven points on the Belarussian’s second serve to get the first set 6-4.

A similar story happened in the second set, when Abanda again came back from a 2-4 deficit to win 6-4, hitting spectacular winners, especially on the backhand side. After the match, the Canadian was especially proud to keep her aggressive tennis with a lower unforced error count, which was her downfall on Saturday. “I have an aggressive game, but my goal after yesterday was to cut down on the errors. I was calmer, more serene and more confident.” Her final stats were impressive, hitting 31 winners to 27 unforced errors, a notable improvement from her 43 errors from Saturday.

Asked about their similar game style, Govortsova agreed: “She seemed to like my game; she was comfortable with my shots. She would hit just as hard as I did.” Coming back from injury and having played only one match since October, Govortsova confirmed she was now healthy, but wasn’t feeling match tough: “I feel like I didn’t close out so many games. I haven’t played enough matches recently.” The Belarussian played herself a pretty clean match with even numbers of winners and unforced errors (24), but really struggled with her serve, hitting 9 doubles faults and getting broken six times.

All eyes were now focused on Aleksandra Wozniak to wrap up the win for the host nation. Playing in her 50th Fed Cup match, the Canadian gave a stellar performance on Saturday to defeat Govortsova and had experience on her side against 21-year-old Sasnovich. Both players started off the match solidly on their serve, as the first nine games were won by the server. Up 5-4, Sasnovich then requested a medical time out for what seemed like pain in her left thigh. This seemed to break Wozniak’s serving rhythm, as she started off with a double fault. Few points later, the feisty Sasnovich would wrap up the set 6-4.

This seemed to start a series of serving woes for both players, as four breaks decided the first seven games of the second set. Down 4-3, Wozniak saved four break points to level at 4-4 to the delight of the crowd, who could sense a possible comeback. But Sasnovich, who had lengthily discussed the emotional importance of playing for her country all week, played spirited tennis to hold easily and fend off a game point on Wozniak’s serve to wrap up the match 6-4, 6-4 on a forehand return winner.

The final doubles match was played between Gabriela Dabrowski, the top ranked doubles player in Canada, and her partner Carol Zhao, a top NCAA player, against Govortsova and Sasnovich, who was sent in last minute after her inspired play of the weekend. Right away, the Belarussians showed that they were more powerful off the ground, attacking the Canadians from all corners of the court. More crafty, both Dabrowski and Zhao tried to vary their shots and strategies, but too often were stuck with incomplete volleys. The duo from Belarus took an early 3-0 lead and never looked back, winning the set 6-2.

The different strategy from the Canadians started paying off in the second set, where they started serving better and finishing off more volleys. Despite going down an early break, the local pair stayed with the Belarussians until the end, when Sasnovich, the star of the weekend, served for the match and the tie at 5-4. Solid, as she was in her three matches, she served it easily, giving her country the win.

Belarus will now be looking to book a spot in the World Group I for the first time since the change in structure in 2005. On the other hand, Canada will go back to defending their slot in the World Group II for the first time since 2013. Both ties will be played on April 16-17; draws and venues should be announced later this week.

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Fed Cup Results

fed cup colours

(February 7, 2016) Sunday’s results for the 2016 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group and World Group II first round ties taking place on 6-7 February.

 

In the World Group semifinals, on 16-17 April, Switzerland will be at home to Czech Republic, while France will host Netherlands.

 

Australia, Belarus, Spain and USA, the four winners in World Group II, have qualified for the World Group play-offs on 16-17 April, where they will be joined by the four World Group first round losers, Italy, Germany, Romania and Russia.

 

Argentina, Belgium, Chinese Taipei and Ukraine, who all qualified from their respective Zone Group I events on Saturday, will contest the World Group II play-offs on 16-17 April, where they will be joined by the four World Group II losers, Canada, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain.

 

The draw for the World Group play-offs and World Group II play-offs will be held at the ITF offices in London on Tuesday 9 February at 12:00 GMT. The seeds will be based on the new Fed Cup Nations Ranking of Monday 8 February.

 

WORLD GROUP FIRST ROUND

 

CZECH REPUBLIC defeated ROMANIA 3-2

Venue: Sala Polivalenta Cluj-Napoca, Cluj-Napoca, ROU (hard – indoor)

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) d. Simona Halep (ROU) 67(4) 64 62

Monica Niculescu (ROU) d. Petra Kvitova (CZE) 63 64

Simona Halep (ROU) d. Petra Kvitova (CZE) 64 36 63

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) d. Monica Niculescu (ROU) 64 46 63

Karolina Pliskova/Barbora Strycova (CZE) d. Andreea Mitu/Raluca Olaru (ROU) 62 63

 

SWITZERLAND defeated GERMANY 3-2

Venue: Leipziger Messe, Leipzig, GER (hard – indoor)

Belinda Bencic (SUI) d. Andrea Petkovic (GER) 63 64

Angelique Kerber (GER) d. Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) 61 63

Belinda Bencic (SUI) d. Angelique Kerber (GER) 76(4) 63

Annika Beck (GER) d. Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) 75 64

Martina Hingis/Belinda Bencic (SUI) d. Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Andrea Petkovic (GER) 63 62

 

FRANCE defeated ITALY 4-1

Venue: Palais des Sports de Marseille, Marseille, FRA (hard – indoor)

Camila Giorgi (ITA) d. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 16 64 61

Caroline Garcia (FRA) d. Sara Errani (ITA) 63 75

Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. Sara Errani (ITA) 76(4) 61

Caroline Garcia (FRA) d. Camila Giorgi (ITA) 63 64

Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. Martina Caregaro/Sara Errani (ITA) 60 61

 

NETHERLANDS defeated RUSSIA 3-1

Venue: Olympic Stadium, Moscow, RUS (hard – indoor)

Kiki Bertens (NED) d. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 63 64

Richel Hogenkamp (NED) d. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 76(4) 57 108

Kiki Bertens (NED) d. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 61 64

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Richel Hogenkamp (NED) – not played

Darya Kasatkina/Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) d. Cindy Burger/Arantxa Rus (NED) 60 62

 

WORLD GROUP II FIRST ROUND

 

AUSTRALIA defeated SLOVAKIA 3-2

Venue: Aegon Arena, National Tennis Centre, Bratislava, SVK (hard – indoor)

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) d. Arina Rodionova (AUS) 57 75 60

Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. Jana Cepelova (SVK) 63 64

Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 76(5) 75

Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) d. Kimberly Birrell (AUS) 63 61

Casey Dellacqua/Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. Jana Cepelova/Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 57 61 62

 

BELARUS defeated CANADA 3-2

Venue: PEPS, Québec City, CAN (hard – indoor)

Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) d. Francoise Abanda (CAN) 64 26 63

Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) d. Olga Govortsova (BLR) 62 62

Francoise Abanda (CAN) d. Olga Govortsova (BLR) 64 64

Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) d. Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) 64 64

Olga Govortsova/Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) d. Gabriela Dabrowski/Carol Zhao (CAN) 62 64

 

USA defeated POLAND 4-0

Venue: Holua Tennis Center, Kailua Kona, USA (hard – outdoor)

Sloane Stephens (USA) d. Magda Linette (POL) 62 64

Venus Williams (USA) d. Paula Kania (POL) 75 62

Venus Williams (USA) d. Magda Linette (POL) 61 62

Sloane Stephens (USA) v Paula Kania (POL) – not played

Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Coco Vandeweghe (USA) d. Klaudia Jans-Ignacik/Paula Kania (POL) 61 75

 

SPAIN defeated SERBIA 4-0

Venue: Kraljevo Sports Centre, Kraljevo, SRB (hard – indoor)

Garbine Muguruza (ESP) d. Ivana Jorovic (SRB) 63 61

Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) d. Jelena Jankovic (SRB) 64 62

Garbine Muguruza (ESP) d. Jelena Jankovic (SRB) 63 64

Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) v Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) – not played

Lara Arruabarrena/Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) d. Ivana Jorovic/Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 46 76(6) [10-7]

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Gasquet, Estrella Burgos and Bautista Agut Win ATP Titles

Richard Gasquet

(February 7, 2016) Richard Gasquet, Victor Estrella Burgos and Roberto Bautista Agut claimed titles on the ATP World Tour on Sunday.

Gasquet defended his Open Sud de France title with a 7-5, 6-4 victory against French countryman Paul-Henri Mathieu.

“It was great for me to win another title,” said Gasquet of his 13th tournament crown. “I am very proud to win my third title here, because it was a great match against a good friend. He had nothing to lose, so it was great to win.”
estrella burgos 1

Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic defended his title in Quito, making a comeback to defeat Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 at the Ecuador Open. Both of his ATP World Tour tournament victories have come on the clay courts of Quito.

“I can’t describe the feeling when I saw the last ball go out,” Estrella said. “It was an unbelievable moment, to win back-to-back in Quito. Last year I was very nervous. I could barely breathe serving on match point. This year I was much more relaxed closing out the match.

“The conditions were difficult. It was sunny and so windy. It was impossible to return [Bellucci’s] serve in the first set.”

The 34-year-old is now 10-0 in Ecuador.

“It was a difficult day,” Bellucci said. “The wind did not allow me to maintain a good level. I was dominating and I had options to win the match, but I wasted them. In the third set, I lost my rhythm on serve and he raised his level. I’m happy to have reached the final, but sad because I could have won.”

 

Roberto Bautista Agut-001

Bautista Agut defeated Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4 in 82 minutes to win the inaugural Sofia Open for his fourth career title.

 

The Spaniard Bautista Agut won the Auckland event last month.
“It is always special to win a title,” said the 18th ranked player. “I have to be happy about this start to the season, the way I play. I am enjoying to be on the court. I just can’t be happier.

“I used drop shots a lot today because he is a great defender and sometimes he stays very far from the baseline. I needed to find a way to break the rhythm and drop shots gave me a lot of points today. To beat Viktor you have to work a lot. He is a very tough opponent. He runs a lot, he makes you play a lot of balls, he defends really well. We played a lot of rallies today and I like that as a Spanish player.”

“He was playing better – more offensive, more aggressive, took more risks,” Troicki said. “He also didn’t’ miss many balls. I felt like the better I played, the better he played. I had a long match yesterday. I needed to be 100 per cent fit to win. He started the season very well. He played great the last four tournaments. So I congratulate him. He deserved the win.

“It was still a good week for me. I reached the final again in four weeks. It is a great start to the season. I hope to keep it up with the good results. That is the only way to make it to the Top 10 which is my goal. I have to achieve it this year.”

The Latin American clay-court swing will set foot in Buenos Aires with the Argentina Open next week. The top four seeds will be top seed Rafael Nadal, Spanish countryman David Ferrer, France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and American John Isner is No. 4.

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USA Defeats Poland in Fed Cup World Group II

 

(February 7, 2016) The United States is now one step closer to competing in the World Group next year by sweeping Poland, 4-0, in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II First Round at the Holua Tennis Center at Holua Resort at Mauna Loa Village in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, today.

 

In Sunday’s first match of the day in windy conditions, world No. 12 Venus Williams cruised past world No. 96 Magda Linette, 6-1, 6-2, in one hour and one minute to clinch the victory for the United States. Williams and Linette had never faced each other on the WTA Tour. Williams is now 19-2 in Fed Cup singles play, while Linette is 1-5. The Sloane Stephens-Paula Kania match was not played.

“This has been the most enthusiastic crowd I’ve ever played in front of, for Fed Cup, or even at home,” Williams said. “The enthusiasm, exciting. When they announced they were going to play the doubles, the crowd was so excited. You can hear them right now.

“It’s just been a pleasure to play for that.

“I love playing. I love looking forward to playing the next ties, seeing who we’re going to play when the draw comes out. I love all of that.

“I think I had a little bit of an advantage today because Sloane had a chance to play against Magda, so had a nice scouting report. I was able to really get started quickly. I think she did a little of the work beforehand for me. I kind of like had the heads-up.”

In the dead doubles rubber, CoCo Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands faced playing captain Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Paula Kania, who substituted for Alicja Rosolska. In the end, Vandeweghe and Mattek-Sands won their match, 6-1, 7-5, in one hour and 15 minutes. Vandeweghe and Mattek-Sands were playing together for the first time and Vandeweghe had beat Mattek-Sands in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Australian Open mixed doubles tournament last month. Vandeweghe is now 2-0 in Fed Cup doubles play, also playing in a dead doubles rubber last year with Taylor Townsend in the World Group II First Round in Argentina, while Mattek-Sands is 4-0 in doubles, last playing Fed Cup doubles in the 2010 World Group Semifinal against Russia. Jans-Ignacik is now 20-10 in Fed Cup doubles play, while Kania is 1-2.

“We just played our game,” said Mattek-Sands. “We kept playing aggressive, closing the net. That’s how we won the first set. We’re prepared for our opponents to step up and play better. Maybe have a little less pressure on them in the second and go for a few shots.

“I think it’s business as usual. We had our game plan and we stuck to it.”

“There’s ebbs and flows to every match,” said Vandeweghe. “It’s how you weather the storm for their good play and also adjusting to your own play. At times Bethanie and I were playing in sync, and at times we weren’t. This is the first time we ever played together. I think we have to take that into account as well.

“But I think we adjusted well right after the break, showing our dominance and presence again, basically dominating their serves right back.”

The U.S. is now 21-0 when leading 2-0 after the first day of play (since the World Group format was instituted in 1995), 38-6 all-time in Fed Cup ties played at home, and holds an overall 145-36 record.

 

Fed Cup is the world’s largest annual international team competition in women’s sport with approximately 100 nations taking part each year. The U.S. leads all nations with 17 Fed Cup titles, the last coming in 2000.

 

ORDER OF PLAY AND RESULTS

 

DAY/LOCAL TIME      MATCH             PAIRING

Saturday, 11:00 a.m.       Singles A:              Sloane Stephens (USA) def. Magda Linette (POL), 6-2, 6-4

Singles B:             Venus Williams (USA) def. Paula Kania (POL), 7-5, 6-2

Sunday, 10:00 a.m.         Singles C:             Venus Williams (USA) def. Magda Linette (POL) 6-1, 6-2

Singles D:             Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Paula Kania (POL)  not played

Doubles:               Bethanie Mattek-Sands/CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)

def. Klaudia Jans-Ignacik/Paula Kania (POL) 6-1, 7-5

 

The United States advances to the World Group Playoffs, held April 16-17, to compete for a spot in the 2017 World Group. Poland will play in the World Group II Playoffs in April to remain in World Group II in 2017.

 

The draw for the World Group Playoffs will be held this Tuesday, February 9. The U.S. will face one of the losers of World Group I – Romania, Germany, Italy, and Russia. Below are the home-away scenarios.

– Romania (coin toss)

– Germany (home tie)

– Italy (home tie)

– Russia (away tie)

 

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Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens Give USA 2-0 Lead Over Poland in Fed Cup

usfedcup2

(February 6, 2016) After the first day of play, the United States leads Poland, 2-0, in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II First Round played on outdoor hard court at the Holua Tennis Center at Holua Resort at Mauna Loa Village.

 

The U.S. is 20-0 when leading 2-0 after the first day of play (since the World Group format was instituted in 1995). The U.S. is 37-6 all-time in Fed Cup ties played at home.

 

In the first singles match of the day, Sloane Stephens, the United States’ No. 2 singles player, defeated Poland’s No. 1 player Magda Linette, 6-2, 6-4, in one hour and 13 minutes. Stephens trailed, 0-4, in the second set before making a comeback and winning the set.

“I definitely had a little fart there at the beginning of the second set, but I regrouped well and I was happy that I was able to play some solid tennis towards the end,” Stephens said.

“It happens, so all I can really take from that is that I tried my butt off and never gave up. That’s all that really counts.

“I kind of just ran out of gas. Needed some sugar. I had some caffeine and a little taste of a bar and I felt better. I got my energy back up and I was kind of bouncing around again and I felt good. So I think that definitely helped a little bit.

Stephens and Linette had met once on the WTA Tour last year in Washington D.C., where Stephens went on to win her first career WTA title. Stephens is now 2-2 in singles in Fed Cup, while Linette is 1-4.

In the second singles match, former world No. 1 Venus Williams defeated world No. 153 Paula Kania, 7-5, 6-2, in one hour and 12 minutes. Williams and Kania had previously met once on the WTA Tour in 2014 in Stanford, where Williams won 6-3, 6-2. Williams is now 18-2 in singles in Fed Cup. Kania was making her Fed Cup singles debut.

“She had some good shots; she played well; I had a few errors,” Williams said.

“I think I at 5-4 I was actually very relaxed. I think her strengths is playing from behind. I think when she was in front it wasn’t as comfortable for her.

“So just that game, I put some balls in, she missed a few, and at 5-All I probably had more experience than she did.”

“It’s never easy to play Fed Cup because you’re playing for more than yourself. I just get pumped,” said Williams. “The whole crowd is here for you and there’s no other feeling like it in tennis.”

ORDER OF PLAY AND RESULTS

 

DAY/LOCAL TIME      MATCH             PAIRING

Saturday, 11:00 a.m.       Singles A:              Sloane Stephens (USA) def. Magda Linette (POL), 6-2, 6-4

Singles B:             Venus Williams (USA) def. Paula Kania (POL), 7-5, 6-2

Sunday, 10:00 a.m.         Singles C:             Venus Williams (USA) vs. Magda Linette (POL)

Singles D:             Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Paula Kania (POL)

Doubles:               Bethanie Mattek-Sands/CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) vs Klaudia Jans-Ignacik/Alicja Rosolska (POL)

 

Each country’s top singles players will meet on Sunday – Venus Williams (USA) vs. Magda Linette (POL) and Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Paula Kania (POL) – as well as a doubles match pitting CoCo Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) against Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Alicja Rosolska (POL).

 

In Sunday’s first match of the day, Williams will face off against Linette. World No. 12 Williams and world No. 96 Linette have never met on the WTA Tour. The second singles match on Sunday will feature Sloane Stephens and Paula Kania. World No. 25 Stephens and world No. 153 Kania have also never met in WTA competition.

 

Vandeweghe and Mattek-Sands are scheduled to take on Rosolska and Jans-Ignacik, who is serving as Poland’s playing captain. Vandeweghe reached the mixed doubles final at this year’s Australian Open and is ranked No. 46 in the world in doubles. Mattek-Sands, ranked No. 6 in the world in doubles, won the 2015 Australian Open and French Open women’s doubles titles with Lucie Safarova and has won 17 career WTA doubles titles overall. Vandeweghe and Mattek-Sands have never paired up for a doubles match before. Rosolska and Jans-Ignacik have played doubles together 16 times, the last coming in Fed Cup last year. Rosolska is ranked No. 46 in doubles and has won four WTA doubles titles, while Jans-Ignacik is ranked No. 50 in doubles and has won three WTA doubles titles.

 

The winner of this match advances to the World Group Playoff, held April 16-17, to compete for a spot in the 2017 World Group. The losing nation will play in the World Group II Playoff in April to remain in World Group II in 2017.

 

Fed Cup is the world’s largest annual international team competition in women’s sport with approximately 100 nations taking part each year. The U.S. leads all nations with 17 Fed Cup titles, the last coming in 2000. The U.S. holds an overall 144-36 record.

 

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Fed Cup Canada vs Belarus: Wozniak does it again

Wozniack 8

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

(February 6, 2016) QUEBEC CITY – Canada and Belarus will head into Day 2 of their Fed Cup World Group II first round match-up in Quebec City deadlocked at  1-1. After Aliaksandra Sasnovich defeated François Abanda 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, Olga Govortsova failed to followed suit, losing to a resurgent Aleksandra Wozniak 6-2, 6-2.

On paper, a lot separated Abanda, ranked 343rd in the world, to Sasnovich 99th . The Canadian, who had seen her ranking drop dramatically in the past year, had struggled with consistency in 2015. Her game, which is based on power and athletic abilities, can often derail into series of unforced errors due to intensity gaps. Nevertheless, she often played inspired tennis in Fed Cup in the past, seemingly inspired by the exuberant crowds and patriotic aspect of the competition.

Not much separated both players at the start of the first set. As expected, Abanda slipped into the role of the aggressor, moving Sasnovich around with heavy hitting from both sides. The Belarusian, who has had a lot of success in the past on indoor fast surfaces, went for a more conservative approach. After both players traded multiple breaks at the start of the match, Abanda got her first opening when, up 4-3, she was up 15-30 on Sasnovich’s serve. After three loose errors from the Canadian, the Belarussian held for 4-all and never looked back, wrapping up the set 6-4 in 41 minutes.

Abanda’s game seemed to settle in the second set, as she took an early 3-0 lead with more control on her aggressive tennis. On the other side of the net, the Belarusian struggled to move past her passive game style, giving the Canadian time to whip up multiple winners. The story continued until, after 35 minutes, the local player reeled off the last four points on two return winners and two double faults to level the match at one set apiece, winning the second 6-2.

The start of the third set saw both players finding their range simultaneously, giving the crowd higher quality tennis. While Abanda continued to put a lot of pressure on Sasnovich, the Belarusian decided to step up the aggression and move the Canadian around. Both players traded blows until 2-all, when Abanda took at 40-15 lead. Similarly to the first set, the Canadian couldn’t convert multiple game points and gave away a crucial break. This sent the momentum Belarus’ way, and after breaking again at 5-3, Sasnovich gave Belarus a 1-0 lead, concluding the 2-hour affair 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.

Asked on what made the difference in such a close match, Sasnovich replied: ”I played for my country, I played for my parents, I played with my heart”. For Abanda, she tried to see the positive in a close defeat to a top 100 player: “It was only a few key pressure points that made the difference. I want to play aggressive and I did. I have plenty more matches to go this year and some high objectives for myself, starting with tomorrow”.

The level of pressure on Abanda’s shoulders was relieved a bit by Aleksandra Wozniak, who leveled the tie by playing like her former top 30 self in a 6-2 6-2 win over Olga Govortsova. Flawless from the get-go, the Canadian confirmed her spot as the best Canadian player in the history of Fed Cup competition as she dismissed the highest ranked player of the weekend convincingly. Wozniak, now ranked outside of the top 800 in the world following one year away from the courts due to a major shoulder injury, controlled the match from the baseline in an impressive showing of aggressive-but-clean tennis.

“I’m so excited to be back playing Fed Cup, in front of the best fans in the world!”, she claimed in her post-match interview. ‘We had a great week of preparation and playing at home, it gives you that extra energy that is so important.’

Asked on what made Fed Cup special, she replied: “I never say no to Fed Cup and to represent my country. It’s a privilege. Tennis is such an individual sport, when you have the chance to play as a team, as a family, it’s special.” This may be seen as a comment directed to top Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who has decided to skip Fed Cup this weekend to focus on her singles career. Wozniak, earlier this week, had mentioned that “everyone has a busy schedule, it then only becomes a personal choice.”

All with therefore be decided in the second and final day of the tie. Abanda is set to play first against Govortsova, while Wozniak will follow against Sasnovich. A doubles match will be played; teams would most likely be decided last minute, but Canadian players Dabrowski and Zhao, winners of the most recent PanAm games, were seen practicing on site following the singles matches. Play will start at 12pm EST at the Peps in Laval University, Quebec City.

 

 

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Fed Cup Canada vs Belarus: Out of sight, in everyone’s mind

Wozniack 5

Aleksandra Wozniak

Fed Cup Canada vs Belarus: Out of sight, in everyone’s mind.

by Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

(February 5, 2016) QUEBEC CITY It seems  as though year after year, the biggest story of the Canadian Fed Cup events in Quebec City lies more in who doesn’t show up than who does. Last year, it was Eugenie Bouchard, who was yo-yoing between presence and absence for weeks before deciding to skip the World Group I encounter against the Czechs (Canada lost 0-4). This week, all eyes were on Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion and former No. 1, who had originally confirmed her intentions to show up in Canada but went MIA for most of the week. After a lot of uncertainty from the Belarus team captain over the week, it was confirmed at the draw ceremony held earlier today that Azarenka would not play this weekend in the World Group II first round between Canada and Belarus.

No official reasons were given for Azarenka’s absence, but a tweet from the Belarussian earlier this week was often brought back to the table: two simple emoji, one with an apparent fever and the other with a sad face. Both the press and public showed disappointment at Azarenka’s absence, and one may expect a lower crowd turnout at the Peps at Laval University.

While the Canadian team publicly stated that Azarenka’s absence doesn’t change anything for their preparation, they must be quite elated that their chances, which were very slim, got a bit better. Indeed, when highest-ranked Canadian Bouchard announced that she would skip the event to focus on playing tournaments to qualify for the Olympics (Bouchard later withdrew from her planned event in Rio played in two weeks), Canada had lost their only player ranked in the WTA top 300 singles rankings. With Belarus coming in with three players in the top 100 with Azarenka (14th), Olga Govortsova (74th) and Aliaksandra Sasnovich (99th), the hill seemed pretty steep.

All isn’t lost for Canada, as both Francoise Abanda and Aleksandra Wozniak, who are scheduled to play singles this weekend, have had inspired performances in Fed Cup in the past. At the same time last year, Abanda, who turned 19 on Friday, was on the rise and seen as one of the most promising junior players in the world. In Fed Cup, she played inspired tennis against Romania, beating top 50 player Begu and losing closely against Dulgheru. But a series of injuries and disappointing loses has seen the young Canadian drop more than 200 places in the ranking in the past 12 months. Nevertheless, she is talented, hits with a ton of power, and is passionate about playing for her country.

This is something Aleksandra Wozniak can relate to. The former top 25 player is trying yet another comeback from injury, as she was derailed off the courts for almost a year between September 2014 and August 2015. Through the past ten years, Wozniak has been a staple of the Canadian team: she is the player with the most ties played (34), most singles wins (31) and most overall wins (38) in the history of the country. A player who is usually pretty stoic and composed on court, she has always expressed more emotion when playing for her country, including in an emotional three set win against Slovakia on the same courts in April 2014. Canadian Captain Sylvain Bruneau will be hoping his players recapture some of that patriotic magic over the weekend.

Singles matches will start on Saturday with both Wozniak and Abanda looking to put their careers back on track, while Govortsova and Sasnovich, who both have had good success on indoor and fast surfaces, will be the clear favorites. Reverse singles and a possibly decisive doubles match will be played on Sunday and matches will start both days at noon Eastern Time.

 

Schedule: World Group II 1st Round – Canada vs Belarus.

 

Saturday February 6th, 12pm EST.

Françoise Abanda (CAN) vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR)

Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) vs Olga Govortsova (BLR)

 

Sunday February 7th, 12pm EST

Françoise Abanda (CAN) vs Olga Govortsova (BLR)

Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR)

Gabriela Dabrowski/Carol Zhao (CAN) vs Olga Govortsova/Vera Lapko (BLR)

 

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Fed Cup Preview: USA vs Poland in Hawaii

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(February 5, 2016) Fed Cup is taking place in Hawaii for the first time, as Kailua-Kona hosts the United States and Poland in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II First Round on an outdoor hard court at the Holua Tennis Center at Holua Resort at Mauna Loa Village, February 6-7.

“I think it’s important to grow tennis in countries that don’t see it very often, in communities that don’t see it very often,” said US Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez.

“It’s nice to be here playing Fed Cup for the first time and get new fans, hopefully encourage new children, new players to get involved in the game. This is one way of doing that.”

 

The United States brings a strong team to Hawaii, led by world No. 12 and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams and world No. 25 Sloane Stephens. CoCo Vandeweghe, who is ranked No. 46 in singles and also reached the mixed doubles final at the 2016 Australian Open, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who is ranked in the Top 10 in the world in doubles, also anchor the team.

 

In Saturday’s first singles match of the day, Sloane Stephens, the United States’ No. 2 singles player, will face off against Poland’s No. 1 player Magda Linette, ranked No. 96 in the world. Stephens and Linette have met once on the WTA Tour last year in Washington D.C., where Stephens went on to win her first career WTA title. In Washington D.C., Stephens defeated Linette, 6-2, 6-1. Stephens and Linette also met as junior players in 2008 at the Eddie Herr, which Stephens also won. Stephens is coming off her second WTA title, winning Auckland prior to the 2016 Australian Open.

” It’s the greatest honor play for your country and be on a team when every week you’re by yourself, Stephens said. “It makes it really fun. Of course, with girls you actually do like and enjoy being around makes it a good week and makes it a lot of fun.”

“I played before in Israel, in Eilat, which is also next to the sea,” Linette said. “But it’s obviously not this beautiful. I’m really enjoying. I believe my team also.

“We are very happy we can be here. We’re just enjoying and we try just to practice as good as we can on the tennis court, and then we just try to enjoy everything else out of the court. We really like it.”

The second singles match on Saturday will feature the United States’ top player Venus Williams versus world No. 153 Paula Kania. Williams and Kania have met once on the WTA Tour in 2014 in Stanford, where Williams won 6-3, 6-2.

“I enjoy being on the team,” said Williams. “I have a really good time on the team. It’s just a fun time. You don’t usually get to do this in tennis. It’s a different experience that you don’t get to have when you grow up as a tennis player, and you’re always solo from beginning to the end. It’s a moment where it’s a break from that.”

Hawaii becomes the 16th state to host Fed Cup. Hawaii hosted Davis Cup, the men’s equivalent to Fed Cup, in Kohala Coast at the Mauna Lani Racquet Club in the 1992 World Group First Round, where the U.S. team of Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras swept Argentina, 5-0. Hawaii also hosted the SportMaster Tennis Championships of Maui, a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit men’s Challenger, in mid-January in Maui and was joined by a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit women’s event that same week for the first time this year.

 

The United States holds a 3-0 record over Poland in Fed Cup. The U.S. last faced Poland in the 1990 World Group First Round in Atlanta, sweeping the tie, 3-0. The U.S., who also faced Poland in 1974 and 1980, has never lost a point in Fed Cup to Poland. This will be the United States’ first home tie since 2014 in St. Louis, as the team competed on the road against Argentina and Italy last year.

 

The winner of this match advances to the World Group Playoff, held April 16-17, to compete for a spot in the 2017 World Group. The losing nation will play in the World Group II Playoff in April to remain in World Group II in 2017.

 

Fed Cup is the world’s largest annual international team competition in women’s sport with approximately 100 nations taking part each year. The U.S. leads all nations with 17 Fed Cup titles, the last coming in 2000. The U.S. is 37-6 in ties played at home and holds an overall 144-36 record.

 

Weekend Line-up

USA v POLAND

Venue: Holua Tennis Center, Kailua Kona, USA (hard – outdoor)

Sloane Stephens (USA) v Magda Linette (POL)

Venus Williams (USA) v Paula Kania (POL)

Venus Williams (USA) v Magda Linette (POL)

Sloane Stephens (USA) v Paula Kania (POL)

Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Coco Vandeweghe (USA) v Klaudia Jans-Ignacik/Alicja Rosolska (POL)

 

Tennis Channel To Air U.S. Versus Poland Fed Cup Tie

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Fed Cup Draws for World Group and World Group II ties and Zone Group 1 Results

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(February 5, 2016) The ITF has announced the draws for the 2016 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group and World Group II first round ties taking place on 6-7 February.

 

Three Zone Group I events are also taking place on 3-6 February: Europe/Africa Zone Group I in Eilat, Israel; Americas Zone Group I in Santa Cruz, Bolivia; and Asia/Oceania Zone Group I in Hua Hin, Thailand.

 

All nations contesting the Zone Group I events are bidding to qualify for the Fed Cup World Group II play-offs on 16-17 April, with two teams qualifying from the Europe/Africa Zone, and one team from both the Americas and Asia/Oceania Zones.

 

WORLD GROUP FIRST ROUND

 

ROMANIA v CZECH REPUBLIC

Venue: Sala Polivalenta Cluj-Napoca, Cluj-Napoca, ROU (hard – indoor)

Simona Halep (ROU) v Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Monica Niculescu (ROU) v Petra Kvitova (CZE)

Simona Halep (ROU) v Petra Kvitova (CZE)

Monica Niculescu (ROU) v Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Andreea Mitu/Raluca Olaru (ROU) v Denisa Allertova/Barbora Strycova (CZE)

 

GERMANY v SWITZERLAND

Venue: Leipziger Messe, Leipzig, GER (hard – indoor)

Andrea Petkovic (GER) v Belinda Bencic (SUI)

Angelique Kerber (GER) v Timea Bacsinszky (SUI)

Angelique Kerber (GER) v Belinda Bencic (SUI)

Andrea Petkovic (GER) v Timea Bacsinszky (SUI)

Annika Beck/Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER) v Viktorija Golubic/Martina Hingis (SUI)

 

FRANCE v ITALY

Venue: Palais des Sports de Marseille, Marseille, FRA (hard – indoor)

Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Camila Giorgi (ITA)

Caroline Garcia (FRA) v Sara Errani (ITA)

Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Sara Errani (ITA)

Caroline Garcia (FRA) v Camila Giorgi (ITA)

Oceane Dodin/Pauline Parmentier (FRA) v Martina Caregaro/Sara Errani (ITA)

 

RUSSIA v NETHERLANDS

Venue: Olympic Stadium, Moscow, RUS (hard – indoor)

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Kiki Bertens (NED)

Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Richel Hogenkamp (NED)

Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Kiki Bertens (NED)

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Richel Hogenkamp (NED)

Darya Kasatkina/Maria Sharapova (RUS) v Cindy Burger/Arantxa Rus (NED)

 

WORLD GROUP II FIRST ROUND

 

SLOVAKIA v AUSTRALIA

Venue: Aegon Arena, National Tennis Centre, Bratislava, SVK (hard – indoor)

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) v Arina Rodionova (AUS)

Jana Cepelova (SVK) v Samantha Stosur (AUS)

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) v Samantha Stosur (AUS)

Jana Cepelova (SVK) v Arina Rodionova (AUS)

Jana Cepelova/Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) v Casey Dellacqua/Samantha Stosur (AUS)

 

CANADA v BELARUS

Venue: PEPS, Québec City, CAN (hard – indoor)

Francoise Abanda (CAN) v Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR)

Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) v Olga Govortsova (BLR)

Francoise Abanda (CAN) v Olga Govortsova (BLR)

Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) v Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR)

Gabriela Dabrowski/Carol Zhao (CAN) v Olga Govortsova/Vera Lapko (BLR)

 

USA v POLAND

Venue: Holua Tennis Center, Kailua Kona, USA (hard – outdoor)

Sloane Stephens (USA) v Magda Linette (POL)

Venus Williams (USA) v Paula Kania (POL)

Venus Williams (USA) v Magda Linette (POL)

Sloane Stephens (USA) v Paula Kania (POL)

Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Coco Vandeweghe (USA) v Klaudia Jans-Ignacik/Alicja Rosolska (POL)

 

SERBIA v SPAIN

Venue: Kraljevo Sports Centre, Kraljevo, SRB (hard – indoor)

Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) v Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

Jelena Jankovic (SRB) v Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)

Jelena Jankovic (SRB) v Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) v Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)

Ivana Jorovic/Nina Stojanovic (SRB) v Lara Arruabarrena/Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP)

 

The ITF has announced the latest results for the 2016 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Zone Group I events taking place on 3-6 February: Europe/Africa Zone Group I in Eilat, Israel; Americas Zone Group I in Santa Cruz, Bolivia; and Asia/Oceania Zone Group I in Hua Hin, Thailand.

 

EUROPE/AFRICA ZONE GROUP I

Venue: Municipal Tennis Centre, Eilat, Israel (hard – outdoors)

Dates: 3-6 February

 

POOL A

 

UKRAINE defeated SWEDEN 3-0

Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) d. Susanne Celik (SWE) 61 63

Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) d. Rebecca Peterson (SWE) 16 62 60

Olga Savchuk/Anastasiya Vasylyeva (UKR) d. Jacqueline Cabaj Awad/Cornelia Lister (SWE) 62 64

 

POOL B

 

GREAT BRITAIN defeated GEORGIA 2-1

Katie Swan (GBR) d. Ekaterine Gorgodze (GEO) 63 63

Heather Watson (GBR) d. Sofia Shapatava (GEO) 62 60

Oksana Kalashnikova/Sofia Shapatava (GEO) d. Jocelyn Rae/Anna Smith (GBR) 62 64

 

POOL C

 

ESTONIA defeated TURKEY 2-1

Basak Eraydin (TUR) d. Valeria Gorlats (EST) 62 63

Anett Kontaveit (EST) d. Cagla Buyukakcay (TUR) 76(6) 64

Anett Kontaveit/Maileen Nuudi (EST) d. Cagla Buyukakcay/Ipek Soylu (TUR) 64 62

 

ISRAEL defeated CROATIA 2-1

Shahar Peer (ISR) d. Tena Lukas (CRO) 36 61 62

Ana Konjuh (CRO) d. Julia Glushko (ISR) 76(4) 61

Julia Glushko/Shahar Peer (ISR) d. Darija Jurak/Ana Konjuh (CRO) 64 76(2)

 

POOL D

 

BELGIUM defeated BULGARIA 3-0

Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL) d. Elitsa Kostova (BUL) 63 36 63

Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) d. Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 64 62

Marie Benoit/An-Sophie Mestach (BEL) d. Dia Evtimova/Isabella Shinikova (BUL) 67(4) 62 64

 

LATVIA defeated HUNGARY 2-1

Anna Bondar (HUN) d. Diana Marcinkevica (LAT) 64 64

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) d. Reka-Luca Jani (HUN) 63 62

Diana Marcinkevica/Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) d. Dalma Galfi/Reka-Luca Jani (HUN) 76(2) 63

 

 

AMERICAS ZONE GROUP I

Venue: Country Club Las Palmas, Santa Cruz, Bolivia (clay – outdoors)

Dates: 3-6 February

 

POOL A

 

PARAGUAY defeated COLOMBIA 2-1

Maria Camila Osorio Serrano (COL) d. Camila Giangreco Campiz (PAR) 64 63

Montserrat Gonzalez (PAR) d. Maria Paulina Perez-Garcia (COL) 60 62

Camila Giangreco Campiz/Montserrat Gonzalez (PAR) d. Emiliana Arango/Maria Camila Osorio Serrano (COL) 63 63

 

MEXICO defeated BOLIVIA 2-1

Ana Sofia Sanchez (MEX) d. Noelia Zeballos (BOL) 63 57 75

Maria-Fernanda Alvarez-Teran (BOL) d. Victoria Rodriguez (MEX) 63 62

Ana Sofia Sanchez/Renata Zarazua (MEX) d. Maria-Fernanda Alvarez-Teran/Noelia Zeballos (BOL) 64 16 76(3)

 

POOL B

 

ARGENTINA defeated BRAZIL 2-1

Nadia Podoroska (ARG) d. Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) 75 63

Teliana Pereira (BRA) d. Maria Irigoyen (ARG) 60 60

Maria Irigoyen/Catalina Pella (ARG) d. Paula Cristina Goncalves/Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) 63 63

 

ECUADOR defeated PERU 2-1

Rafaella Baquerizo (ECU) d. Anastasia Iamachkine (PER) 63 61

Dominique Schaefer (PER) d. Charlotte Roemer (ECU) 61 46 76(3)

Rafaella Baquerizo/Camila Romero (ECU) d. Bianca Botto/Anastasia Iamachkine (PER) 64 60

 

 

ASIA/OCEANIA ZONE GROUP I

Venue: True Arena Hua Hin, Hua Hin, Thailand (hard – outdoors)

Dates: 3-6 February

 

POOL A

 

JAPAN defeated THAILAND 2-1

Bunyawi Thamchaiwat (THA) d. Eri Hozumi (JPN) 46 75 64

Nao Hibino (JPN) d. Luksika Kumkhum (THA) 06 75 61

Shuko Aoyama/Eri Hozumi (JPN) d. Kamonwan Buayam/Peangtarn Plipuech (THA) 75 60

 

INDIA defeated UZBEKISTAN 3-0

Prerna Bhambri (IND) d. Sabina Sharipova (UZB) 61 61

Ankita Raina (IND) d. Nigina Abduraimova (UZB) 61 60

Sania Mirza/Ankita Raina (IND) d. Akgul Amanmuradova/Arina Folts (UZB) 62 60

 

POOL B

 

CHINA, P.R. defeated KAZAKHSTAN 3-0

Wang Qiang (CHN) d. Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ) 62 62

Zheng Saisai (CHN) d. Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 63 63

Liang Chen/Wang Yafan (CHN) d. Yaroslava Shvedova/Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ) 62 60 ret.

 

CHINESE TAIPEI defeated KOREA, REP. 2-1

Han Na-Lae (KOR) d. Chang Kai-Chen (TPE) 76(1) 64

Hsieh Su-Wei (TPE) d. Jang Su Jeong (KOR) 76(5) 62

Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan (TPE) d. Han Na-Lae/Jang Su Jeong (KOR) 63 75

 

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Tennis Channel To Air U.S. Versus Poland Fed Cup Tie

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LOS ANGELES, (February 4, 2016)Tennis Channel will provide exclusive live coverage of the U.S. Fed Cup team’s competition against Poland in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, this weekend, with telecasts Saturday, Feb. 6, beginning at 4 p.m. ET, and Sunday, Feb. 7, beginning at 3 p.m. ET. This year the United States is battling to return to the main field of contenders for next year’s Fed Cup competition, and must defeat Poland to keep its hopes alive for the 2017 tournament. Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams will lead Sloane Stephens, Coco Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands as they fight for a spot in next year’s competition.
In addition to televising United States-Poland this weekend, Tennis Channel will cover Fed Cup first-round competition between 2016 Fed Cup contenders Germany and Switzerland live, in Leipzig, Germany, beginning at 7 a.m. ET Saturday, Feb. 6, and beginning at 6 a.m. ET Sunday, Feb. 7. Australian Open champion and World No. 2 Angelique Kerber will lead the German charge against Switzerland and World No. 11 Belinda Bencic.
Sportscaster Steve Weissman (@Steve_Weissman) and Hall of Famer and former U.S. Fed Cup player Lindsay Davenport (@LDavenport76), will be in Kailua Kona covering the United States-Poland match for Tennis Channel this weekend. During Davenport’s Fed Cup career, she contributed to U.S. team championships in 1996, 1999 and 2000. Broadcaster Russ Thaler (@RussThaler) will call the action during the Germany-Switzerland tie this weekend, with Hall of Famer Tracy Austin (@thetracyaustin) and former player Paul Annacone (Paul_Annacone).
Tennis Channel’s live Fed Cup coverage is as follows (all time ET):
Saturday, Feb. 6:
7 a.m. –Singles Germany v. Switzerland
4p.m. –Singles #1 USA v. Poland
6p.m. –Singles #2USA v. Poland
 
Sunday, Feb. 7:
6a.m. – Doubles Germany v. Switzerland
3p.m. –Singles #3 USA v. Poland
5p.m. –Singles #4 USA v. Poland
7p.m. – Doubles USA v. Poland
The United States hopes to uphold its unbeaten record against Poland (3-0), with victories coming in 1990, 1980 and 1974. The most recent competition was during the 1990Fed Cup first round, when the U.S. team beat Poland 3-0 in Atlanta, Georgia. The American squad must defeat Poland and then win another head-to-head Fed Cup competition in April in order to qualify for the 2017 tournament. The United States leads all nations with 17Fed Cup championships, the most recent in 2000.
The U.S. Fed Cup team is captained by retired American tennis star Mary Joe Fernandez, who as a player helped her Fed Cup team win the championship in 1996. Venus Williams captured the 48th WTA title of her career at the WTA Elite Open in Zhuhai, China in November. She also holds 13 doubles titles, two mixed doubles titles and four Olympic gold medals, including one in singles and three in doubles with her sister Serena. Stephens recently defeated Julia Goerges at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, to win her second WTA title. Vandeweghe achieved her career-best result in 2015, after advancing to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. In 2015, Mattek-Sands won the Australian Open and French Open women’s doubles titles with Lucie Safarova and the French Open mixed doubles title with Mike Bryan.
If Poland wins this weekend it will qualify for a chance to play for the 2017 Fed Cup. The team is captained by Klaudia Jans-Ignacikand features Magda Linette, Paula Kania and Alicja Rosolska.
In addition to daylong Fed Cup coverage this weekend, Tennis Channel will also periodically look in at the men’s tournaments in Montpellier, France, and Quito, Ecuador, as part of its world-whipraound telecast.
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