Big names missing as Fed Cup nominations announced

It is not only the beleaguered Davis Cup that has found some of the bigger names in the game missing recently, when it comes time for them to represent their country.

The list of nominations for the first rounds of Fed Cup competition Feb. 9-10 also has some fairly big holes in it.

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Notably, Spain is without by far its two best players, as it prepares to take on Japan in Kita-kyushu. Then again, Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka also will be absent, even if the tie is being played in the country she represents.

In her case, though, you can probably assess a mulligan.

On the positive side, Romania will have Simona Halep when Romania and the Czech Republic meet in Ostrava.

The rosters, on a trial basis, have been expanded to five players at the World Group levels, after a trial in the zonals in 2018. That allows some teams to field double teams that have experience playing together.

Not all of the teams have named five players – either because they don’t have five viable players, or they’re leaving a spot vacant in the hope of a last-minute change of heart.

Here are the nominations for the World Group I and II ties, with the players missing in brackets.

WORLD GROUP I

Czech Republic vs. Romania
Ostrava, Czech Republic

Czech Republic: Karolina Pliskova, Katerina Siniakova, Marketa Vondrousova, Barbora Krejcikova

Romania: Simona Halep, Mihaela Buzarnescu, Irina-Camelia Begu, Ana Bogdan, Monica Niculescu

Missing: Petra Kvitova, Babora Strycova (CZE), Sorana Cirstea (ROU)

Belgium vs. France
Liège, Belgium

Belgium:  Elise Mertens, Alison Van Uytvanck, Kirsten Flipkens, Ysaline Bonaventure

France: Caroline Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic, Alizé Cornet, Pauline Parmentier, Fiona Ferro

Missing: Yanina Wickmayer (BEL).

Notes: The French have their five top-ranked players all lined up to play this tie, which is the first under new captain Julien Benneteau. Notably, No. 19 Caroline Garcia returns for the first time since the 2016 final against the Czech Republic. Garcia defeated both Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova in singles in that tie. She and Mladenovic, who played regularly that year, lost the fifth and deciding rubber. Garcia lost her first-round match in Thailand this week to qualifier Jennifer Brady.

Germany vs. Belarus
Braunschweig, Germany

Germany: Andrea Petkovic, Tatjana Maria, Mona Barthel, Laura Siegemund, Anna-Lena Groenefeld

Belarus: Aryna Sabalenka, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Victoria Azarenka, Vera Lapko, Lidziya Marozava.

Missing: Angelique Kerber, Julia Goerges (GER), 

Notes: Great to see Victoria Azarenka back on board, hopefully on a regular basis, in Fed Cup. With the emergence of Sabalenka, you’d have to think that they have a shot at winning it all if Azarenka can raise her game to some semblance to its former form.

USA vs. Australia
Asheville, NC

USA: Madison Keys, Danielle Collins, Sofia Kenin, Nicole Melichar

Australia: Ashleigh Barty, Daria Gavrilova, Priscilla Hon, Kimberly Birrell, Astra Sharma.

Missing: Sloane Stephens, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA), Ajla Tomljanovic, Samantha Stosur (AUS)

Notes: That the Americans, who have such a deep roster, are only fielding four players, and are missing their top two singles players and best doubles player is a bit of a shocker. It will be interesting to see if the fans who flocked to Asheville a year ago to see the Williams sisters will still show up to support the stars and stripes.

WORLD GROUP II

Switzerland vs. Italy
Biel, Switzerland

Switzerland: Belinda Bencic, Stefanie Voegele, Viktorija Golubic, Timea Bacsinszky, Jil Teichmann

Italy: Camila Giorgi, Sara Errani, Martina Trevisan, Jasmine Paolini, Deborah Chiesa.

Errani doping suspension appeal denied

Notes: It’s noteworthy (and not in a good way) that Sara Errani is the No. 2 player on the squad. At No. 122, she’s also the second-highest ranked female player in Italy. And that’s despite the fact that she hasn’t played since last June, as she serves a doping suspension for the now infamous tortellini incident. Her appeal was denied last June, and she hasn’t played since. She is eligible to return Feb. 8. Meanwhile, Giorgi returns for the first time since the 2016 quarterfinals, where she recorded Italy’s only point with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Kristina Mladenovic in the opening rubber.

Lavia vs. Slovakia
Riga, Latvia

Latvia: Anastasija Sevastova, Jelena Ostapenko, Diana Marcinkevica, Daniela Vismane, Patricija Spaka

Slovakia: Dominika Cibulkova, Viktoria Kuzmova, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Magdalena Rybarikova, Rebecca Sramkova.

Notes: Latvia only has four players with WTA Tour rankings, and they’re all on board along with 16-year-old Spaka, who has never played a pro event and has a junior ranking of No. 295. Notably, Latvia has two girls ranked in the top 60 in the ITF junior rankings. But they weren’t nominated. … Meanwhile, Cibulkova, who was entered in the St. Petersburg tournament this week, pulled out with gastro.

Japan vs. Spain
Kita-kyushu, Japan

 Japan: Nao Hibino, Misaki Doi, Kurumi Nara, Miyu Kato, Makoto Ninomiya

Spain: Sara Sorribes Tormo, Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, Georgina Garcia-Perez, Silvia Soler-Espinosa, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez

Missing: Naomi Osaka (JPN), Garbiñe Muguruza, Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP)

Notes: It’s actually surprising that Muguruza isn’t playing the tie. The No. 1 Spaniard stayed behind in that part of the world after the Australian Open and is the No. 1 seed at the Thailand Open this week. She is not entered in Doha the week following the tie. Suárez Navarro lost in the second round of the Australian Open to Dayana Yastremska, but she plans to play both Doha and Dubai.

Netherlands vs. Canada
‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands

Netherlands: Arantxa Rus, Richel Hogenkamp, Bibiane Schoofs, Demi Schuurs

Canada: Bianca Andreescu, Rebecca Marino, Francoise Abanda, Gabriela Dabrowski

Missing: Kiki Bertens (NED), Eugenie Bouchard (CAN)

vs.
Marino returns to the Fed Cup family for the first time since 2011.

Notes: Bertens is not playing the tie at home, in the week between her effort in St. Petersburg this week and Doha and Dubai right afterwards. She didn’t play Fed Cup in 2018 … Meanwhile, Genie Bouchard, supplanted as the Canadian No. 1 by 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu on Monday, is taking a pass for Canada. Bouchard hadn’t played Fed Cup in three years when she returned to action last April in Montreal, and posted two tough, encouraging victories. That was a relegation tie against Ukraine, and Bouchard’s efforts allowed Canada to stay in World Group II for 2019. Bouchard is entered in Doha, and must play the qualifying that weekend. Despite not being on impeccable terms with Tennis Canada, Abanda is part of the four-woman squad. Marino returns to Fed Cup for the first time since her only participation, in two ties in 2011.

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