Fed Cup playoff matchups set

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It doesn’t take long, after a country works hard all weekend for a shot at a Fed Cup promotion, to find out what’s next.

The draws for the World Group I and World Group II promotion/relegation ties, which will be held April 21-22, were made Tuesday morning in London.

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Scroll down to see the matchups.

The locations of the ties are to be determined. And that’s the complicated bit about this. Countries have months to set up a venue for the first round of the season. But then, they really only have a few weeks to find an appropriate arena that meets all of the ITF criteria.

More northern countries must look at indoor venues. And that makes it even more involved logistically.

The first teams listed will host the ties. Four were decided by coin flip, with the nations not having met in competition in several decades. 

Belarus will host its fifth straight tie at home while Canada, which defeated Ukraine on the road back in 2013, will host this time around.

Will Victoria Azarenka be available for Belarus this time around for a home tie against Slovakia? That’s to be determined.

Three of the seeded teams will host, and five will have to go on the road against  unseeded teams.

World Group I play-offs

Belarus (s) vs Slovakia
Romania v Switzerland (s)
Australia v Netherlands (s)
Italy v Belgium (s)

World Group II play-offs

Russia (s) v Latvia
Spain (s) v Paraguay
Canada v Ukraine (s)
Japan v Great Britain (s)

The four winners in World Group I will remain in that top group for 2019, while the losers are relegated to World Group II.

The four winners in World Group II will remain in that group for 2019, while the four losing nations will have to go back down to the zonal competition to try for another shot at promotion for the 2020 Fed Cup season.

The same weekend, France will host the U.S., and Germany will host the Czech Republic in the World Group semifinals.

For Canada, which brought a young team to Romania and couldn’t win a singles match even in the absence of Simona Halep on the other side, it’s another big challenge.

The 3-2 win over Ukraine the last time the two countries met came in a similar situation, in a World Group II playoff tie.

The Canadian and Ukrainian squads competing in that tie were completely different from the ones that played – and lost – last weekend.

Eugenie Bouchard, Sharon Fichman, Stéphanie Dubois and Gabriela Dabrowski (who didn’t see action) went to Kiev to play in indoor red clay. 

Dubois and Fichman have both retired since then. Bouchard declined to play the tie, opting to play an exhibition match at the ATP event in New York on Sunday night.

Last time Canada met Ukraine…

It was essentially a four-woman tie, with Bouchard, Fichman, and Elina Svitolina and Lesia Tsurenko playing all five rubbers. Svitolina won both of her singles matches, Tsurenko lost both of hers, and Bouchard-Fichman won the deciding doubles against Svitolina-Tsurenko.

Svitolina and Tsurenko both took a pass on last weekend’s tie in Australia, where the Ukraine team was led by 15-year-old Marta Kostyuk.

Who will be on hand when the two teams meet in April?

The big indoor clay event in Stuttgart, Germany begins the day after the tie. A competing smaller event in Istanbul, Turkey, which is played outdoors, might be more of a factor.

Svitolina has played it three of the last four years, and is the defending champion. Tsurenko won it in 2015. With the typical cutoffs, players like Bouchard, Françoise Abanda and Carol Zhao might also have it on their schedule. But they might well have to play the qualifying, which would be held the same weekend as the Fed Cup tie.

So, as usual, participation will be a balancing act between personal career interests and Olympic eligibility/country loyalty.

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