The “World Cup of Tennis” returns February 6th and 7th, with nation-on-nation match-ups scheduled across the globe. Like last year, Team USA starts the 2016 campaign outside of the World Group. The goal? To win this weekend, then again in the World Group Playoffs come April. Those two wins land the U.S. back in the World Group with a chance to compete for the Fed Cup Title in 2017.
Last year, thanks to Venus and Serena, Team USA easily won their World Group II first-round match over Argentina in Buenos Aires. In April’s World Group Playoffs however, Italian hosts Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta destroyed Alison Riske and Serena Williams in the deciding rubber, kicking the U.S. back down the Fed Cup ladder.
This year, round-one sees the Americans host Poland in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. Captain Mary Jo Fernandez pieced together a solid squad for the weekend, featuring Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, Coco Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. On Poland’s side, Neither Radwanska sister made the trip. In theory, this should be an easy berth into the World Group Playoffs for Team USA. Their highest-ranked Polish opponent is Magda Linette, currently ranked #93 on the WTA Tour.
Here’s the commercial promoting Team USA’s World Group II First Round Tie vs. Poland in Hawaii. Just like last year, Team USA is simply fighting to reach the Fed Cup World Group in 2017.
This will be the 4th meeting between Poland and the United States. They faced each other in 1974, 1980 and 1990. Team USA has yet to lose a single rubber in the match-up. Last year, Poland started the year with a loss to Russia in World Group First Round play. In the World Group playoffs, Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky defeated both Radwanska sisters, then clinched the win in doubles to relegate Poland back to World Group II.
In Fed Cup World Group Play this weekend:
Romania hosts the Czech Republic: Defending champions for the second consecutive year, the Czechs face a tough opening test versus Romania.
- CZE: Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Strycova, Denisa Allertova
- ROU: Simona Halep, Monica Niculescu, Andreea Mitu, Raluca Olaru
Australian Open Champion Angelique Kerber will enjoy some hometown love in Leipzig as Germany hosts Switzerland in another well-matched opening round.
- GER: Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic, Annika Beck, Anna-Lena Groenefeld
- SUI: Belinda Bencic, Timea Bacsinszky, Martina Hingis, Viktorija Golubic
The French will host Italy in Marseilles. With Flavia Pennetta’s retirement in 2016, by all appearances, France has the upper hand. Flavia was clutch for the Italians. She went 21-4 in singles play during her Fed Cup career.
- FRA: Kristina Mladenovic, Caroline Garcia, Pauline Parmentier, Oceane Dodin
- ITA: Sara Errani, Camila Giorgi, Francesca Schiavone, Martina Caregaro
It looks like Russia has the easiest road to the 2016 Fed Cup Semifinals. They will host the Netherlands in Moscow for first round play this weekend.
- RUS: Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ekaterina Makarova, Darya Kasatkina
- NED: Kiki Bertens, Richel Hogenkamp, Cindy Burger, Arantxa Rus