The Fed Cup quarterfinals are this weekend, and consider the following preview a debate as to whether the international women’s competition should be further embraced, or just dumped entirely since the players themselves don’t seem to give a shit.
Here are the teams competing this weekend:
RUSSIA AT AUSTRALIA
Russian tennis was crumbling even before legendary captain Shamil Tarpischev bailed out last year in favor of new Russian captain Anastasia Myskina. The iron-handed Tarpischev always seemed to pull together the top Russians, as evident by Fed Cup titles in four of five years from 2004-08. But over the last few years, due to payout squabbles and changes in the Russian sports hierarchy, Russian Fed Cup has become a joke. All the top Russian players have again blown off this tie for Mother Russia, and the rookie captain Myskina now has at her disposal Victoria Kan (ranked No. 160), Irina Khromacheva (240), Valeria Solovyeva (247), and Veronika Kudermetova (689) in her first tie as captain. Good luck with that. Australia will post with their top player and former Slam winner Sam Stosur, in addition to Casey Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty, and will ease into the semifinals. This is an “F” on the watchability report card.
ITALY AT USA
World No. 1 Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens opted out of this one citing injury, then the entire Italian team passed citing too much travel — that’s Sara Errani, Roberta Vinci and Francesca Schiavone. Left are top two Madison Keys and Alison Riske for the Americans, and Karin Knapp and Camila Giorgi for the Italians. Where is Venus Williams? Will those unknowns put butts in seats? That sounds like a USTA Pro Circuit event line-up, not top tier tennis entertainment. Tickets, needless to say, are probably still available in Cleveland for this one. Maybe for free. This is an “F” on the watchability report card — as in both country’s top players saying ‘F-you Fed Cup.’
CZECH REPUBLIC AT SPAIN
The Czechs behind powerhouses Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova reached the Fed Cup semifinals last year, and captured the title the two years prior. The Spanish struggle, needing to win a playoffs match at the end of last year just to stay in the World Group in 2014. But this tie is on the red dirt in Spain, and some combination of Carla Suarez Navarro, 2014 breakthrough player Lara Arruabarrena, Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, and Silvia Soler-Espinona will attempt to wear down the big-hitting but not necessarily patient Czechs. This is a “B” on the watchability report card to see if the Spaniards can scrap.
GERMANY AT SLOVAK REPUBLIC
Contrary to the US-Italy tie, this German-Slovak tie carries all the countries’ heavy hitters. Angie Kerber and Sabine Lisicki for the Germans go into Bratislava and the hardcourts against Aussie Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova and fellow veteran Daniela Hantuchova for the Slovaks. On the loaded bench for Germany are Andrea Petkovic and Julia “Gorgeous” Goerges. The Slovaks lost in the semifinals last year to Russia after choking away a two matches to none lead. The Germans are back in the World Group in 2014, trying to win a first round for the first time in 12 years. This is another “B” on the watchability report card — should be some drama, but for Germany where is Steffi Graf when you need her? Twelve years without a first round win, really?
Sound off below, are the top players invested in Fed Cup and their nations or should the ITF pull the plug? Would you watch any of these ties other than unless the battery died in your TV remote?
Also Check Out:
ATP/WTA Previews: Nice, Dusseldorf, Warsaw, Strasbourg
WTA Previews: Henin, Clijsters in Brisbane; Auckland No Top 10
U.S. Comes From Behind to Defeat Russia, Gain Fed Cup Final
Tennis-X Blog: Roddick, Schiavone Sliding Along on Grass Wednesday; Thursday Previews
Henin Pulls from Sydney; WTA Previews