The U.S. vs. Czech Republic Fed Cup final, with all the notable absentees on the American side, was headed towards a mismatch.
But that matchup got a little bit tighter Saturday as Czech No. 2 Karolina Pliskova bowed out with the calf issue that was visible during last week’s WTA Finals in Singapore.
“Already in Singapore there were days when I felt pain even when walking and I felt terrible. But I didn’t attach much weight to it. I was looking forward to the final very much, but after the examination my start is not possible,” Pliskova wrote on social media.
“I’m really sorry about that. Our team is strong enough!”
If you add Pliskova’s absence to the relative lack of form shown by Czech No. 1 Petra Kvitova this fall, you would think the U.S. team of neophytes, led by Alison Riske, would like their chances a little better even if they’re on the road.
But the Czechs are deep.
Even if those two didn’t play at all, the other members of the squad (No. 31 Katerina Siniakova and No. 33 Barbora Strycova, both incredible doubles players as well) are still ranked higher than the top American, No. 35 Danielle Collins.
Barbora Krejcikova, who with Siniakova will finish as the co-No. 1 ranked doubles player in the world, was named to replace Pliskova.
That only makes their doubles team stronger (if it comes to that), while freeing up the clever Strycova to play singles.
Calf muscle tear for Pliskova
The Czech website tenisovysvet.cz reports Pliskova was diagnosed with a muscle tear.
From the very first day in Singapore, Pliskova had her right calf tightly wrapped. And from what she wrote, the pain was significantly more than appeared on the court, where she wouldn’t have wanted to give her opponents an edge.
It had been yeowoman’s work to even qualify for Singapore. The Czech took a wild card into an event in Tianjin, China after the Premier Mandatory in Beijing. And then she flew to Moscow to play there before a combination of wins and losses by other aspirants finally guaranteed her qualification.
Despite the injury, Pliskova had a great week. She won two of her three round-robin matches, succumbing only to eventual champion Elina Svitolina (in three sets). It was enough to qualify for the semifinals.
She won the first set 6-0 against Sloane Stephens in that semifinal. But the Czech had squeezed every step she could out of that leg, and Stephens ended up prevailing in three.