Sloane Stephens to Open for US Against France in Fed Cup Semifinals
(April 20, 2018) The United States Fed Cup Team travels to France to try and reach their second straight Fed Cup final this weekend on an indoor clay court at Arena Du Pays D’Aix in Aix-en-Provence, France.
The draw was made on Friday – Saturday’s singles rubbers will feature two players who competed in the 2017 Fed Cup Final in Minsk, Belarus—Sloane Stephens and CoCo Vandeweghe.
In the opening singles match, world No. 9 Stephens, 25, will take on world No. 122 Pauline Parmentier, 32. This will be the fourth meeting between the two players, with Stephens leading the series, 2-1. Stephens and Parmentier last met earlier this year in Acapulco on a hard court, with Stephens winning the match, 6-4, 6-0. The two players also met in Strasbourg on clay in 2016, with Parmentier winning in three sets, as well as in Miami in 2010, with Stephens winning in three sets.
“Of course I favor my players,” aid US Fed cup Captain Kathy Rinaldi. “I believe in them. I think Sloane is playing great tennis and she’s proven that recently with her win in Miami and I think she’s eager to play. She played for us in the final and I think she’s eager to get back out there in Fed Cup and embrace it.”
Stephens comes to Fed Cup after capturing the Miami Open earlier this month—her sixth career WTA title. She won her first career Major singles title at the 2017 US Open after being ranked as low as No. 957 in July, her ranking having dropped after she missed 11 months following surgery on her left foot. Stephens has competed in five Fed Cup ties for the U.S., making her debut in 2012. She holds a 2-4 record in Fed Cup singles matches. Parmentier, who peaked at No. 40 in the world in 2008 and holds two WTA singles titles, will be competing in her 11th Fed Cup tie for France, first playing for the team in 2010. She holds a 5-10 singles record in Fed Cup competition.
Fed Cup competition is completely different than playing a regular tournament because you’re playing for your country,” said Stephens.
“Clay gives me a little bit more time and I like it. It suits my game well and I’ve always enjoyed playing on it, so it’s an advantage for me. It’s an advantage if they are playing a little slower.”
The second singles rubber on Saturday will feature world No. 16 Vandeweghe, 26, taking on France’s top player and world No. 20 Kristina Mladenovic, 24. Vandeweghe and Mladenovic have met six times, with Vandeweghe leading the series, 5-1. The two players last met in the Hopman Cup in 2017 with Vandeweghe winning the match. They last competed on the WTA Tour in Wuhan on a hard court in 2016 with Mladenovic capturing her only win against Vandeweghe, 7-6(5), 6-3. Saturday’s match will be their first meeting on clay.
Vandeweghe made Fed Cup history last year by going 8-0 in singles and doubles play to lead the U.S. team to its 18th Fed Cup championship and first since 2000. With six singles wins in 2017, Vandeweghe became the first American since the World Group format was instituted in 1995, to win all six Fed Cup singles matches in one year. She has played in eight Fed Cup ties, holding an 8-3 singles record. She reached the semifinals of both the 2017 US Open and Australian Open—her career-best Grand Slam results—and holds two WTA singles titles. Mladenovic is competing in her 14th Fed Cup tie for France, first playing for the team in 2012, and holds an 8-6 singles record. She won two singles matches and the clinching doubles rubber in this year’s Fed Cup Quarterfinal over Belgium. Mladenovic holds one singles title (St. Petersburg in 2017) and has reached the quarterfinals of the US Open and French Open.
“I’m just happy to be back and playing in the Fed Cup format,” noted Vandeweghe. “It’s been great to be a part of this team and be around these girls even though it’s only a few times during the year, but it’s really fun.”
She most recently played Mladenovic at Hopman Cup:”That was similar to playing for our country. Kiki and I go way back to juniors. We’ve played each other a bunch and there are no new surprises except that this is the first time we’re playing on clay, that’s the only new surprise, and hopefully I’ll be able to take my success onto the clay court as well.”
“She serves really well, she likes to dictate with her forehand and she has a little bit of craft with the backhand with the drop shot and she can play slices. That’s normally what happens unless she changes something completely different on clay.”
The U.S. is 11-2 all-time against France in Fed Cup competition in a rivalry dating back to 1966. France won the last meeting in the 2014 World Group Playoff in St. Louis, 3-2, in a fifth-and-decisive doubles rubber. The U.S. last beat France in the 2010 World Group First Round, 4-1, in Lievin, France.
The winner of this matchup will advance to the Fed Cup Final, Nov. 10-11. The United States is looking to reach back-to-back Fed Cup finals for the first time since finishing runner-up in 2009-10, while France is looking for a place in its second final since 2005.
“I look forward to the matches,” said French Captain, tennis Hall of Famer Yannick Noah. “We have had good preparation and playing indoor on clay is totally different from what they have done in the last few months. It takes some time and I am really happy with the way the girls responded. I understand the U.S. team came here later and I think it is a good thing for us because otherwise of course the U.S. team is favorite.”
“It would be amazing,” Rinaldi said about reaching another Fed Cup final in her second year as captain. “That’s our goal all along, to keep the Cup home. But, one match at a time. We don’t underestimating anybody. We’re not going to be over confident. We’ve prepared well the last few days and so we’re going to compete and compete hard to keep the Cup home.”
ORDER OF PLAY
The full order of play was determined at Friday’s draw ceremony at the Arena Du Pays D’Aix in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Saturday, 2 p.m. (8 a.m. ET)
Singles A: Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Pauline Parmentier (FRA)
Singles B: CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) vs. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)
Sunday, 1 p.m. (7 a.m. ET)
Singles C: Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)
Singles D: CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) vs. Pauline Parmentier (FRA)
Doubles: Madison Keys/Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) vs. Kristina Mladenovic/Amandine Hesse (FRA)
Fed Cup Semifinals to Air Live on Tennis Channel and Tennis Channel Plus This Weekend