Puig: Ellesse –> Yonex in 24 hours (and other fashion notes)

With the flipping of the calendar from 2018 to 2019, Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig had a complete change of attire in the middle of the same tournament.

Must have involved some extra baggage charges on the trip Down Under.

On Dec. 31, 2018 as the Rio Olympic gold medalist defeated wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland, she was wearing the Ellesse kit she had been sporting for four years.

On Jan. 2, 2019, for her second round against No. 3 seed Hsieh Su-Wei – a totally  different look.

Puig was decked out all in Yonex, which also is her racket sponsor.

(That Puig lost to Hsieh 6-1, 7-6 likely had less to do with the new look than it did the comprehensive bit of taping on her right shoulder).

A lot of changes for 2019

The Yonex kit is actually terrific. And that has not always been the case for the company’s line of women’s tennis outfits.

So that’s a plus.

They might think about maybe relocating her AT&T sponsorship patch, though.

That one stood out against the blue of the old kit. Stuck on the lilac, it kind of blends into the background.

Puig had posted a photo on social media a few weeks ago during preseason in which she wasn’t wearing the usual Ellesse, but a Yonex top.

That was the giveaway, although the pic was later deleted.

Puig’s coach hasn’t made the switch yet.

Konta in Ellesse

Puig coach Todero is sticking with the old Ellesse stuff as 2019 begins (WTATV)

Meanwhile, Johanna Konta of Great Britain has joined countryman Cameron Norrie in the Ellesse stable for 2019.

Konta had been wearing Asics.

But when she appeared on Jan. 1 and pulled off an upset against Sloane Stephens in the first round of Brisbane, she was wearing a rather retro-looking Ellesse kit.

The shoes were horribly mismatched, though; she’ll have to get on that.


Former Ellesse ambassador Feliciano Lopez also is gone, to the Italian brand Hydrogen.

Hydrogen makes a move with Berdych

Bertens in Fila

Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, who joined the top 10 in 2018, got there wearing Mizuno.

As the new season dawns, she’s wearing FILA. And nice-looking Fila at that.


Suárez Navarro needs wardrobe function

Spanish veteran Carla Suárez Navarro remains with Lotto.

But judging by her listless defeat in the first round in Brisbane – she got just three games against Anett Kontaveit – a major wardrobe adjustment is in order.

Suárez Navarro would have nothing to do with the low-cut, racerback top she was given to wear.

As is – NOTHING to do with it.

She wore a rather more modest undershirt beneath it to ease any concern about accidental visuals.

The wardrobe struggle was real for Carla Suárez Navarro during her season-opening loss to Anett Kontaveit in Brisbane.

But beyond that, was the length of the skirt – or lack thereof.

Generously listed at 5-foot-4, the Spaniard shouldn’t generally have an issue with skirts being too short. But this one was.

As well, she kept … having to pull down the attached shorties (we girls know this feeling all too well).


It seems like nothing. But it doesn’t take much to throw a player off her game. And being thoroughly uncomfortable in her tennis duds will do it.

Kontaveit in Lacoste


After years wearing adidas (although we don’t know 100 per cent that it was an actual financial sponsorship), the Estonian Kontaveit has kicked off 2019 in Lacoste.

She trounced Suárez Navarro and, on Wednesday, Petra Kvitova to advance to the Brisbane quarterfinals.

So – so far, so good, although that center-pleat idea was probably best left in the 1970s.

Leggings are in

EllesseellesseWith the adjustment-clarification-change in the rule for the women and wearing leggings on the court in 2019 (call it whatever you prefer), a few veterans in Shenzhen have wasted no time taking it to the max.


The less-than balmy temperatures have made it far less a fashion statement than a necessity.

Which, of course, was what it always was before the French Open brouhaha with Serena Williams that led to the “clarification” of the rule.


Some new Nike – please

A lot of the players won’t debut their 2019 tennis wear until the Australian Open.

EllesseWhich means that sort-of-mismatched Stella McCartney adidas outfit is still around (with Caroline Wozniacki, among others, wearing it).

Worse: it means that … Fall 2018 Nike gear is still around.

No matter what iteration it’s in – the mismatched colours, the skirt with the unflattering horizontal lines, the short-sleeve tucked shirt, the Sloane Stephens outfit, or the too-short racerback top sported by Belinda Bencic in Perth – it’s an eyesore.

Melbourne can’t arrive soon enough.

(All screenshots from WTA TV)

Jo Konta on the coaching search – again

For the third consecutive-season, British former top-10 Johanna Konta will be in the market for a new coach.

That’s an exclusive, reported by Mike Dickson of the Daily Mail.

The association with longtime Maria Sharapova coach Michael Joyce lasted just one season.

Konta began the season with Joyce ranked No. 9. But she had some big results to defend – notably at the beginning of the season. She went Shenzhen semi, Sydney title and Australian Open quarterfinal to start the 2017 season.

She also won Miami and reached the Wimbledon semifinals. After that, she reached her career-high singles ranking of No. 4.

But she lost her first match in five of the six tournaments she played after that. And at the end of that season, the one-year tenure of coach Wim Fissette was over.

Two years ago around this time, Konta parted ways with longtime coach Esteban Carril


That came shortly after she broke into the top 10 for the first time – the first British woman in 32 years to do that.

When Carril joined her team, Konta seemed destined to perennially be in and out of the top 100. She ended the 2014 season ranked No. 150. During their 2 1/2 years together, Konta’s ranking rose to No. 10.

Konta also is changing representation, from Octagon to Starwing Sports, which represents Stan Wawrinka and Kyle Edmund. The news was first reported in the Times last week.

Fissette rebounded quickly with Angelique Kerber, helping her to get out of the plateau she was in after reaching world No. 1 and start winning again.

Carril has been working with promising young Brit Jay Clarke.

Muguruza, Konta latest to fall in Oz

MELBOURNE, Australia – Extreme heat is definitely a great equalizer.

But a truly dominant player or two has yet to emerge in the absence of Serena Williams.

So at this Australian Open, and perhaps at every major event going forward, this may be what it’s like on the women’s side from now on.

Different players by the final weekend, shocking upsets here and there, a lot of uncertainty and anticipation. And a bunch of new faces.

Thursday, in the second round, two more top players fell short of making the second week.

Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, and No. 9 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain, both were eliminated in straight sets.

Lucky loser and doubles star

Both were shockers in their own way.

Even if Muguruza had physical issues the first two weeks of the season, she wasn’t expected to lose to Hsieh in the second round.

Muguruza went out 7-6 (1) 6-4 to Hsieh Su-Wei of Taipei, more known as a doubles specialist and a player with good wheels and a flat, tricky game.

Konta lost to the luckiest loser, Bernarda Pera of New Jersey via Croatia. 

Both came in straight sets in the intense heat.

“She’s definitely a very tricky opponent, and even more if she plays well. I think today she played well,” Muguruza said. “I maybe could have done things better, but at the end, she deserves to win. That’s really it.”

At issue for the Spaniard is a string of injuries – nothing major, nothing to keep her off the court for extended periods. But one thing after another just the same.

Late start, rocky run

Muguruza was delayed a day arriving at Brisbane to open her season. As it was, she wasn’t giving herself any extra time to acclimate to the extreme Australian summer conditions. And then she went into a full body cramp in her first match, against Aleksandra Krunic, and had to retire.

Lucky loser Pera defeated former world No. 7 Patty Schnyder in the first round of qualifying, but needed a withdrawal to get into the main draw as a lucky loser. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Muguruza then took a wild card into the Sydney event and won her first match. But then she withdrew before a potential quarterfinal against Daria Gavrilova to take care of an adductor strain that had been bothering her since she arrived.

It’s not the way she’d want to start the season. And the same could be said for Konta.

The Brit took on a new coach, Michael Joyce, to start the season after a foot injury scuttled the end of 2017. 

But she, too retired in her season-opener in Brisbane, with a hip injury, in the quarterfinals. She then lost in the first round of Sydney to Agnieszka Radwanska.

Konta short on matches after foot injury

Konta was a quarterfinalist in Melbourne a year ago, and a semifinalist in 2016. 

She looked good in her first-round win over American Madison Brengle. But then, against the lucky loser Pera, it wasn’t to be.

The lack of volume of matches in recent months, Konta said, got to her more than any of the weather conditions.

“I think you obviously look to keep improving your game through training and your physicality through, you know, training, but to being match fit and having that feel in points and feel in the way match flows and kind of that almost not thinking about kind of belief in, you know, what you do in certain points, that comes with matches,” Konta said. “That comes with volume of matches. Yeah. And also coming through tough matches.”

For Pera, 23, the rise has been gradual. She moved to the US from Croatia when she was 16, settling in New Jersey (her father is an American citizen). But recently, she has been spending a lot more time in Croatia, with her childhood coach. And after four or five years bouncing around the ITF circuit, she stood at a career-best No. 123 coming in.

Still, Pera lost in two quick sets to the No. 4 seed in the qualifying, Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland (she was seeded No. 14).

But with the withdrawal of Margarita Gasparyan late in the game, after she’d already been looking at flights home, Pera was in. She’s in the third round, one victory away from moving into the top 90 and not having to worry about qualifying at the other Grand Slams this season.

Konta has a new coach, Michael Joyce, but not enough matches in her reservoir to pull out the tough ones as 2018 begins. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

She also already has earned nearly $114,000 US. For a player who took part in one WTA Tour main-draw match in 2017 (at the International level), that’s big.

Hsieh’s shining Slam moments

For Hsieh, a 32-year-old, doubles has been the breadwinner. But she’s had her moments. She spent a few weeks in the top-30 in singles five years ago. And she was a feel-good story at the French Open last year, when she upset Konta in the first round before bowing out 9-7 in the third set to home-country favorite Caroline Garcia.

She did it all with the biggest smile on her face.

For Pera, the next opponent will be the No. 20 seed Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic.

For Hsieh, next up is No. 26 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

Other top players such as Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens were out early. So the third round of the women’s event doesn’t look much like it was drawn up on paper.

Here’s what it was, and what it now is – including three qualifiers in the bottom half of the draw.

Konta confirms Joyce as new coach

Johanna Konta has confirmed that Michael Joyce will be her new coach.

“Michael is a fantastic coach with a great pedigree and I’m really excited to work with him. 2017 has been amazing but I feel like there is so much more to come,” Konta told the WTA website. “The plan is for Michael to travel with me full time through 2018.”

The 44-year-old American already has been in the U.K. for a week and had already come to terms, although the official announcement came only Wednesday.

The two have begun preparing for Konta’s first tournament of the season in Brisbane, the first week of January.

Konta parted ways with Wim Fissette in October after the best season of her career. Fissette quickly signed on with former No. 1 Angelique Kerber, who parted ways with Torben Beltz. Donna Vekic snapped up Beltz.

Got that straight?

Great opportunity for Joyce

Joyce, who coached Maria Sharapova for many years, left his job working with American Jessica Pegula this year to work with Victoria Azarenka as she returned from maternity leave. 

Given Azarenka’s well-publicized custody issues, which seem a long way from resolved and are keeping her off the court indefinitely, Joyce had to consider his options. 

Jobs with top-10 players aren’t that easy to come by – despite the increasing turnover from year to year. So the opportunity was a no-brainer.

(Nearly) all-female team

Konta’s team is now complete. She also has strength and conditioning coach Gill Myburgh, physio Milly Mirkovic (longtime physio for the LTA) and mental coach Elena Sosa on her payroll.

It has probably been underpublicized that Konta’s entire team – with the exception of Joyce – is female.

Can you think of any player – female or male – for whom that’s the case? It would be great if it became a trend.

Konta hasn’t played since early October in Beijing. A left foot injury kept her off the court, and kept her from likely qualification at the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore.

She hasn’t won a match since the third round of the Premier 5 event in Cincinnati in mid-August, and has more than 1,000 ranking points to defend in the first month: a semifinal in Shenzhen, a title in Sydney and a quarter-final at the Australian Open.

Another coaching split: Konta, Fissette part

British No. 1 Johanna Konta has Tweeted out the fruits of her baking efforts the last few weeks.

It turned out that she’s sharpening her skills because her season is already over.

Konta, who was in the race for the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore until a week ago, had still hoped to be there as an alternate, and then go on to play the second-tier finals in Zhuhai, China the following week.

But that won’t happen now.

The foot injury that exacerbated her on-court struggles during the second half of the season has yet to sufficiently heal.

And on top of that, Konta has split with coach Wim Fissette after just one season.

Of course, it was a mutual decision and they’ve parted on the best of terms.

Because isn’t that always the way?

“After careful thought and discussion, Wim Fissette and I have mutually decided to end our working relationship. Things ended very amicably and I wish Wim all the best. We’ve achieved a lot together and I want to thank him for all his patience, hard work and expertise,” Konta said in a statement.

“I will be working with my team over the coming weeks to find the right way forward for me and my tennis. The goal is to get a new coach or coaches in place as soon as possible but the focus will be on making the right decision rather than a quick decision.”

Konta was a surprise champion in Miami. She reached a career-best No. 4 after her semi-final effort at Wimbledon.

The Women’s quarterfinals – what they said

WIMBLEDON – With the help of the Centre Court roof, all four women’s quarterfinals were completed Tuesday.

One was played outdoors on No. 1 Court. Two were played under the roof on Centre Court (one ending with the scream of an overeager British fan).

And the last one began on No. 1 Court, and was completed three hours later under the roof.

The two women’s singles semi-finals, to be played Thursday, are set.

No. 6 Johanna Konta of Great Britain is the highest seed remaining. She will play No. 10 Venus Williams.


The other semifinal will feature 2015 finalist Garbiñe Muguruza, seeded No. 14 against the fairy tale of this fortnight, Slovakia’s unseeded Magdalena Rybarikova.

Here is what they said.

[6] Johanna Konta (GBR) def. [2] Simona Halep (ROU) 67 (2) 76 (5) 64

Konta: “I guess to be in the semifinals of my home Slam, and to do that in front of a full Centre Court, I mean, it’s pretty, pretty special. I think the level of tennis that both of us played today, it was just a tremendous match. … I feel very happy with how I was able to maintain my level throughout the whole match, and really just tried to stick very closely to how I felt I wanted to play out there, and did that kind of through the thick and thin.”

Halep: “I think was a great tennis. Both of us played a good level. I was very close, again. In the tiebreak maybe I could serve better and stronger a little bit. Then in the third set, the serve game that I lost was a little bit tough to still believe that I can break her because she was serving pretty well. … I think everything was okay. Many positives from this match. And she played really well, so she deserves to win.”

[10] Venus Williams (USA) def. [13] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)


Williams:  “I know she had to be feeling confident. She played a great match. Not a lot of errors. I never played her. Watched her. Didn’t really know what to expect. The grass, of course, changes the game. So just a lot of factors. I was really happy to come out on top. … ”

Ostapenko: “She was playing good today. She was serving well. I think I didn’t start the match very well. I was missing a little bit. But, yeah, she was serving really well. It was very tough to break. Because of that I had more pressure because I had to keep my serve. … It was also a good match today for me. … I had kind of, like, some pressure because, as I said, she was serving really well today. She started the match good. She made a lot of aces. But, yeah, I was not, like, feeling nervous. I just couldn’t really play my best today.”

[14] Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) def. [7] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 63 64

Muguruza: “I’m very happy and very pleased also with this match, because obviously Kuznetsova is a very tough opponent. We all know she has been and is a great player. I managed to play a good level during all the match. I earned the victory. … Before I was more emotional. You know, I was showing more emotions on the court. Now I’m trying to handle it better. I think that’s experience. Like I said before, the year I made final here, I felt like I was a completely different player. Now I maybe feel more solid mentally, going out there knowing what to do. I think it’s with experience and the years.”

Kuznetsova:  “I think in the start I had some options on her serve. I had love-30, 15-40, couldn’t turn it around. Then I just lost silly break, quite fast one, the first set. Then it was again everything even. Second break in the second set, it’s pretty simple. But these small moments, small chances really matters a lot. I think Garbiñe recovered very good today. She defend very good.”

[PR] Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) def. [24] Coco Vandeweghe (USA) 63 63

Rybarikova: ” I just recently played ITFs in Surbiton. I was thinking that I was nervous more there than today. I have no idea how come I was that calm. Obviously I was nervous, but I was not like I would shake. Sometimes I can get really nervous and really tight. But this match I was quite positive. I was saying to myself, if I’m not going to make this serve, I still can break her because I had a lot of chances before so I can still make. If not, then I have third set. I was still up. So you still have to believe. Somehow I was not nervous. But I don’t understand it quite well, but that happened. … Always some player who surprise. Now I was lucky to be me. Yeah, I’m really grateful for that.”

Vandeweghe: “That’s why Grand Slams are the hardest tournaments. They’re over two weeks and you have to play well for two weeks. … I think (Rybarikova is) playing the best tennis of her career right now. She’s won a lot of tournaments. And she’s playing really well. She’s in the semifinals.”

Karolina Pliskova the new WTA No. 1

WIMBLEDON – When the women’s singles draw was made at Wimbledon last Friday, there were five women who theoretically could be ranked No. 1 on the WTA tour at the end of the fortnight.

Karolina Pliskova, wherever she is right now, is the last one standing.

The moment Great Britain’s Johanna Konta defeated Simona Halep in their quarterfinal Tuesday, the 25-year-old Czech became the 23rd woman to hold the No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour.

She will officially take over the crown – which has proven a rather weighty one in recent years when Serena Williams hasn’t been wearing it – on Monday.

If it seems as if Pliskova backed into it, perhaps she did. The storybook ending would be to win Wimbledon, and become No. 1. Instead, she was upset in the second round by Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia.

But any time you accomplish something like that, the rest are just details.

Pliskova is the first Czech woman to be ranked No. 1. When Czech-born Martina Navratilova first got to the top of the rankings right around this time in 1978, she was already representing the U.S.

The accolade comes halfway through a season during which the only consistent thing on the WTA Tour was … inconsistency.

Amidst all that, Pliskova has had a very solid season. That’s evidenced by the fact that she’s currently atop the leaderboard in the race to the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore in October.

Over the last 52 weeks (which are the results on the computer at any one time that determine the current rankings), Pliskova has won four titles. She has made two Grand Slam semi-finals, and has nine victories over other top-10 players.

No. 1 without a major

The fact that she has made it without yet winning a major title has become, if not commonplace, no longer rare. Players like Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki and Amélie Mauresmo (who later erased that blemish on her resumé) have done it before her.

A lot had to happen for Caroline Wozniacki to take over No. 1 after Wimbledon. None of it did, but just to be in the conversation again is big after her dip in form of recent years. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

When the draw came out, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki both had a slight shot at being No. 1 at the end of Wimbledon.

But they would have had to win their first major title, for one thing.

Once Pliskova won the warmup tournament in Eastbourne the day after the Wimbledon draw, those two were eliminated from contention. 

Kerber had a shot at staying No. 1. But she had to reach the Wimbledon final. She lost a tough one to Garbiñe Muguruza on Manic Monday.

And then, there were two.

Halep’s destiny in her own hands

Halep has Wimbledon quarterfinal ranking points as well as the points she won from winning Bucharest right after Wimbledon a year ago dropping off the computer on Monday. Still, she needed “only” to reach the semi-finals here to finally get to No. 1. And she gave it everything she had, but went down to Konta Tuesday evening. 


It’s the second consecutive top-spot disappointment for Halep. At the French Open, she would have become No. 1 had she defeated Jelena Ostapenko and won the title.

That would have been the perfect storybook ending – winning your first major title, and earning the No. 1 spot at the same time. 

Halep was two points from beating Konta and finally doing it Tuesday. It wouldn’t have mattered if she got no further in the tournament; she would have left London with the No. 1 ranking.

The Romanian must be questioning a whole lot of things, at the moment.

It seems the weight of trying to grab that crown might be almost as significant as wearing it.

The dethroned Kerber has spent a total of 34 weeks at No. 1, not all of them consecutive. That’s the 12th-most of the 23 No. 1s in history.

It’s more than Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams combined, as amazing as that may seem. And she may well be back before too long to add to it.

More improvement for Genie Bouchard

ROLAND GARROS – Another day, more treatment, and more improvement in the state of Canadian Genie Bouchard’s right ankle.

Bouchard was out nice and early Sunday morning, playing a practice set with world No. 8 Johanna Konta of Great Britain. And it went well.

Here’s what it looked like.

Coach Thomas Hogstedt mentioned in a television interview afterwards that Bouchard had “won” – which is always a result to be taken with a grain of salt when you’re talking about practice sets.

But it was an unusual result for Bouchard; she might have the worst practice-set record, well, ever.

More important was the state of her movement, 10 days after suffering a Grade 2 ankle sprain on the practice court in Nürnberg, Germany. 

In a word? Better. Better than Saturday, which was better than Friday, etc. etc. But definitely far from 100 per cent.

The Canadian still has one more day to heal just a little more, before she makes her 2017 French Open debut against No. 72-ranked Risa Ozaki of Japan Tuesday.

Romania wins, but tennis loses

In the aftermath of the Ilie Năstase Fed Cup fiasco Saturday in Constanta, Romania, his now-former charges won their tie against Great Britain on Sunday.

Tennis, especially women’s tennis, didn’t win.

Năstase’s players didn’t need him. With veteran Monica Niculescu subbing in as captain, Simona Halep easily disposed of Johanna Konta 6-1, 6-3. Irina-Camela Begu substituted for Sorana Cirstea for the fourth rubber and clinched it against Heather Watson.

Romania remains in World Group II for the 2018 edition of Fed Cup. Despite the presence of a top-10 player in Konta, the Brits again must go down to the European zonal competition and try to get back for another crack at a playoff tie.

The top-ranked singles player on the Romanian squad in the absence of Halep, Begu wasn’t in the lineup for the first day of the Năstase-led tie in Belgium in February. Romania lost both matches. When Begu came in on the Sunday, she lost a tough one and Romania was defeated.

This time, she got a shot and made the most of it.

Năstase defiant

Năstase was unrepentant in what the British tabloid the Mirror called an exclusive interview. “Remember I was world number one. If you throw someone out who was a world number one – it’s not good for tennis,” he said.

It’s the Mirror, so take it for what it’s worth.

British captain Anne Keothavong’s reaction to some flowers she received said it all.

Meanwhile …

Apparently if you’re a legend, you don’t need a fake ID to get in. It doesn’t appear Năstase was able to get into the arena, though. After that, the ITF issued a statement.

The “ITF International Adjudication Panel” issued the 70-year-old a provisional suspension for breaching the “Fed Cup Welfare Policy.” Normally, per the rules in the case of such a breach, the “covered person” has 10 days to submit any material relevant to their case before it goes to the Adjudication panel. That clearly was fast-tracked in this case.

Per the statement, “Năstase may not participate in the Fed Cup in any capacity with immediate effect, and shall be denied access to, and accreditation for, any ITF event including Fed Cup. The investigation by the Internal Adjudication Panel is ongoing. No further comment will be made during the investigation.”

The suspension may well mean Năstase won’t be able to go to the French Open or Wimbledon, to wear one of his various military uniforms. From the rules, it seems the worst thing that can happen to him is to make that access denial permanent.

Players pay the price

His players, especially Cirstea and Halep, got their share of criticism over the weekend even though the circumstances were hardly of their own creation.

Cirstea was candid in the wake of her victory Saturday, which included a long break after Năstase reportedly reduced opponent Konta to tears.

She was off-base in some aspects, something Konta later ascribed to her opponent not having all the facts. The officials seemed unable to tell her what she needed to know to be able to keep her focus on her job – to try to win a tennis match for her country.

Năstase sat with Halep for a brief time after he was told to leave the court. It didn’t last long.

Her point about understanding if Romania were defaulted at 2-1 in the set was counterbalanced by her suspicions of why Konta’s tears began only a game later. Her statements on some of the nasty insults from hostile Fed Cup crowds were eye-opening.

The Guardian reported Konta had received some unsettling news just before the tie, which might have contributed to her emotional state.

Halep front and center

Halep was in the eye of the storm more than any other because of her position as Romania’s top player. The tie was being played in her hometown, as well.

She sat with Năstase when he was first asked to leave the captain’s chair. After he was kicked out of the stadium altogether, she took the microphone and addressed the crowd.

And she was criticized for that.

Further complicating Halep’s position is that Năstase claims she had some input into his selection as captain last October.

Năstase said that longtime friend and countryman Ion Tiriac, the billionaire who owns this week’s joint WTA-ATP event in Madrid, was the connection. “He asked me to do this. I think he talked with Simona,” Năstase told the Romanian media at the time. Tiriac and Romanian federation president George Cosac are close allies. It seems like quite the cabal, doesn’t it?

Tiriac has been a major supporter of Halep’s tennis. At times, he has been a regular presence although Halep said in an interview with Forbes Magazine that he never assisted her financially. She won her first big title at his Madrid event.

To expect the Romanian players to do anything but defend their country, and defend a legendary sportsman in their country, is to expect too much.

There was only one bad guy in this scenario. And apparently he couldn’t care less.

Fed Cup weekend – Preview

There are a lot of big names missing this weekend (why should the women be any different than the men, when it comes down to it). But the Fed Cup weekend still will have good tennis on offer.

No. 2 France, No. 3 Germany and No. 4 Netherlands all were eliminated in the first round. So the top-ranked Czechs (without any of the players who earned their country that top rank) are the only seeded squad left among the four.

Unfortunately, the ITF’s Davis Cup/Fed Cup live stream service went dark at the end of 2016, just as the WTA Tour’s service did. The contract with Perform expired, an ITF spokesperson told Tennis.Life, and they haven’t managed to get a replacement up yet. The one-time $60 (US) annual payment entitled viewers to all the Davis Cup World Group and playoff ties, and nearly all of the Fed Cup World Group I and II. It was a great service. Unfortunately now, to see these matches, it’s a scramble. In Canada, for example, the Canada-Kazakhstan tie isn’t even being shown on Sportsnet, the network that owns the Davis Cup/Fed Cup broadcast rights. They are airing it on their streaming service.

The live scoring page is here.

World Group I semifinals

Belarus (1) vs. Switzerland (1)
Venue: Chizhovka Arena, Minsk, Belarus
Surface: Hard, Indoor
Start times: 6 a.m. EDT (Saturday); 5 a.m. EDT (Sunday)

Here are the nominations. Click on them to access the Fed Cup page with all the information you’ll need.

Missing for Belarus, not unexpectedly given she hasn’t yet returned from maternity leave, is Victoria Azarenka. But Azarenka is on hand to cheer on her teammates this weekend in Minsk.

Olga Govortsova, a veteran, has to be riding a wave of confidence after winning the $80,000 ITF event in Florida last week. She didn’t get the call, though. Aryna Sabalenka, 18, will play No. 2 singles on Saturday.

USA (1) vs. [1] CZE (1)
Venue: Saddlebrook Resort, Florida, USA
Surface: Clay, Outdoor
Start times: Noon EDT (Saturday); 11 a.m. EDT (Sunday)

Here are the nominations. Click on them to access the Fed Cup page with all the information you’ll need.

Missing for the U.S.: Venus and Serena Williams, Madison Keys
Missing for the Czechs: Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Strycova and Lucie Hradecka – the entire squad that defeated the French to win the Fed Cup last fall.

Marketa Vondrousova, the 17-year-old who won her first WTA Tour title in Biel, Switzerland last week, was tapped to play No. 2 singles – at least on Saturday. She’s making her Fed Cup debut.

The Americans, even without the big guns, appear to be a close-knit team – all the fun they’re having, chronicled by the USTA on its social media channels, makes them look like a model of togetherness in the context of modern women’s tennis.

World Group I Playoffs

[1] France (2) vs. Spain (0)
Halle André Vacheresse
Roanne, France
Indoor clay

France: Kristina Mladenovic, Alizé Cornet, Pauline Parmentier, Amandine Hesse (Missing: Caroline Garcia, Océane Dodin. Read this for more)

Spain: Sara Sorribes Tormo, Silvia Soler Espinosa, Olga Saez Larra, Maria José Martínez Sánchez (Missing: Garbiñe Muguruza, Carlá Suárez Navaro, Lara Arruabarrena)

[2] Russia (1) vs. Belgium (1) 
Small Sports Arena “Luzhniki”
Moscow, Russia
Indoor clay

Russia: Elena Vesnina, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Daria Kasatkina, Anna Blinkova

Belgium: Elise Mertens, Maryna Zanevska (A Polish player, newly Belgian), Alison Van Uytvanck, An-Sophie Mestach (Missing: Kirsten Flipkens)

[3] Germany (2) vs. Ukraine (0)
Porsche Arena
Stuttgart, Germany
Indoor clay

The tie will be played at the Porsche Arena, where in theory the qualifying for next week’s WTA Tour Premier event should be going on. At least the players involved in both will get used to the stadium court. The first round of Stuttgart qualifying will take place on the two supplementary courts next door in the Hanns-Martin Schleyer-Halle. Eight matches per court, per day. The same thing occurred when Germany played Serbia in a Fed Cup playoff tie in 2013.

Fed Cup

Germany: Angelique Kerber, Laura Siegemund, Julia Goerges, Karina Witthoeft (Missing: Andrea Petkovic, Annika Beck)

Ukraine: Elina Svitolina, Lesia Tsurenko, Olga Savchuk, Nadiia Kichenok

[4] Netherlands (1) vs. Slovakia (1)
Bratislava, Slovakia
Indoor clay

Netherlands: Kiki Bertens, Richel Hogenkamp, Cindy Burger, Arantxa Rus (Missing: Michaella Krajicek)

Slovakia: Kristina Kucova, Jana Cepelova, Rebecca Sramkova, Daniela Hantuchova (Missing: Dominika Cibulkova)

World Group II Playoffs

[1] Italy (2) vs. Chinese Taipei (0)
Circolo Tennis Barletta
Barletta, Italy
Outdoor clay

Italy: Sara Errani, Jasmine Paolini, Martina Trevisan, Camilla Rosatello (Missing: Roberta Vinci, Camila Giorgi, Francesca Schiavone)

Chinese Taipei: Ya-Hsuan Lee, Chieh-Yu Hsu, Chia-Jung Chuang , Ching-Wen Hsu (Missing: Yung-Jan Chan, Hao-Ching Chan, Hsieh Su-Wei)

[2] Romania (1) vs. Great Britain (1)
Tenis Club IDU
Constanta, Romania
Outdoor clay

Constanta, on the Black Sea, is Simona Halep’s hometown. The start time for Saturday’s matches was pushed back an hour, announced Friday, because of tough weather in the area. (At 5 a.m. Saturday there, the temperature was 2C (minus-3 with the wind chill. Brrr.)

Romania: Simona Halep, Irina-Camelia Begu, Sorana Cirstea, Monica Niculescu

Great Britain: Johanna Konta, Heather Watson, Laura Robson, Jocelyn Rae (Missing: Naomi Broady)

[3] Australia (2) vs. Serbia (0)
Kristalna Dvorana Sports Hall
Zrenjanin, Serbia
Indoor hard

Australia: Daria Gavrilova, Ashleigh Barty, Destanee Aiava, Casey Dellacqua (Missing: Samantha Stosur)

Serbia: Aleksandra Krunic, Nina Stojanovic, Ivana Jorovic, Dejana Radanaovic (Missing: Jelena Jankovic)

[4] Canada (1) vs. Kazakhstan (1)
Uniprix Stadium
Montreal, Quebec
Indoor hard

Canada: Françoise Abanda, Bianca Andreescu, Katherine Sebov, Gabriela Dabrowski (Missing: Genie Bouchard, Aleksandra Wozniak)

Kazakhstan: Yulia Putintseva, Yaroslava Shvedova, Galina Voskoboeva, Kamila Kerimbayeva.


Also going on this week are the Group II Europe/Africa playoffs, in Siauliai, Lithuania.