If the American Fed Cup squad is going to defend its title in Prague in 10 days, it’s going to have to do it by going deep into its roster.
Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, top-ranked American doubles player Coco Vandeweghe and most-decorated doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands all are taking a pass. So captain Kathy Rinaldi has had to call on the depth players to try to beat the Czech Republic’s all-star team.
Daniele Collins (No. 35), Sofia Kenin (No. 48), Alison Riske (No. 63) and Wimbledon mixed doubles champion Nicole Melichar will represent the U.S. in Prague, Nov. 10-11.
The Czech team features No. 7 Petra Kvitova, No. 8 Karolina Pliskova, new world No. 1 doubles player Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Strycova (No. 5 in doubles, No. 33 in singles).
The first three Czechs all took part in the WTA Finals in Singapore last week.
Madison Keys on not playing the @FedCup final: Said she had a talk with Kathy Rinaldi and wasn’t sure how her knee would hold up after @WTAEliteTrophy. Didn’t want to be a liability by getting named to the team and be unable to actually play.
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) October 31, 2018
Keys hasn’t played in nearly a month, and has played little since the US Open, period. After retiring with a knee injury in her second-round match against Angelique Kerber in Wuhan, she gave opponent Bernarda Pera a walkover in her second round in Beijing.
She is, however, playing the WTA Elite Trophy event in Zhuhai. Keys defeated top seed and WTA Finals alternate Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-2, 6-4 Wednesday.
Stephens was visibly out of steam during the last part of her final match in Singapore against champion Elina Svitolina.
Neither Venus (who had entered a few fall events, but withdrew) nor Serena Williams have played since the US Open.
The timing on this particular announcement Tweet from Fed Cup Wednesday wasn’t … ideal.
— Fed Cup (@FedCup) October 30, 2018
Three Fed Cup debutantes
Collins and Kenin, the two top-ranked players on Rinaldi’s team, as well as Melichar all will be making their Fed Cup debuts.
Riske has played three times. She debuted in 2014 against Italy in the first round, and was beaten 6-3, 7-5 by the now-retired Karen Knapp.
She returned the following year against Italy in the World Group I playoff in Brindisi, Italy, teaming up with Serena Williams in a losing cause. Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta beat then 6-0, 6-3 in the deciding doubles rubber, after Williams won both her singles matches and teammates Lauren Davis and Christina Mchale lost theirs.
Riske won her first career rubber last year, defeating Andrea Petkovic 7-6, 6-2 in the opener as the U.S. swept Germany 4-0.
She was on the winning American squad against Belarus last November. But she didn’t see action.