PRAGUE,. Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova will lead the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup final in Prague against a United States team counting on a crop of unfamiliar names to defend the title.
US captain Kathy Rinaldi, without the services of Serena and Venus Williams and WTA Finals runner-up Sloane Stephens, calls on world number 35 Danielle Collins and 48th ranked Sofia Kenin and 15th-ranked doubles player Nicole Melichar ? each making her Fed Cup debut.
Alison Riske, ranked 63rd in the world, will also make the trip to Prague for the November 10-11 final. Riske was part of the title winning squad last year in Belarus.
“I believe in the girls and I know they’re going to compete,” Rinaldi said.
“The Czech Republic has a great team, tremendous depth and a good history in Fed Cup. This is a great opportunity for these young ladies to step up.”
Collins, 24, reached WTA semi-finals in Miami and San Jose. Kenin, 19, is also expected to be assigned singles duty. She’s the youngest player in the world top 50.
The Americans will have their work cut out against seventh- and eighth-ranked Kvitova and Pliskova, who are teaming up with 31st-ranked Katerina Siniakova, the world number one in doubles, and 33rd-ranked Barbora Strycova, who is fifth in doubles.
“I’m really excited, I appreciate having the strongest team I could put together,” said captain Petr Pala, quoted by the CTK news agency.
The final pitting the two most successful nations in Fed Cup history ? the USA with 18 trophies and the Czech Republic with 10 including five as the former Czechoslovakia ? will be played on the hardcourt of the sold-out 15,000-capacity O2 Arena.
The United states beat Belarus in Minsk last year after seeing off the Czechs in the semi-final.
Led by Kvitova and Pliskova, the Czechs have won five of the last seven editions including all three finals they have played on Prague’s hardcourt.
“We are good at the finals, we are not so good against the Americans. We have never lost in the O2 Arena, but we have never beaten the Americans (in the final),” Pala said.
In this year’s semi-finals, the Czechs beat Germany in Stuttgart while the United States edged France in Aix-en-Provence. ? AFP