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By Chris Oddo | Thursday April 20, 2017

The Americans will have good chance to knock off the three-time defending Fed Cup champion Czech Republic this weekend at Saddlebrook resort in Florida. That’s because the Czech team will not feature any of its top four talents, and it will travel to face the Americans on a surface that most European teams are unfamiliar with—green clay.

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But the same can be said of the Americans, who will be without their top three players – Serena and Venus Williams plus Madison Keys.

What that leaves both countries with is a chance to test the mettle of some of their young and unproven talents. And despite the absence of each nations’ biggest names, the competition will still be a meaningful one for both. The Czechs, winners of five of the last six Fed Cup titles, desperately want to keep their run going, while the Americans, playing in their first semifinal in seven years and first with new Captain Kathy Rinaldi at the helm, want to deliver the blow the knocks the Czechs out.

“We're going into this not underestimating anybody,” Rinaldi said. “They, like us, are very strong, a lot of depth in their women's game in singles and in doubles. Recently some of those girls have had a lot of success. They're young and they're hungry. We're just expecting them to come out and be playing their best. We're going to go and we're just going to compete. I mean, we're going to leave everything we have out on that court. Win or lose, that's what you're going to get from this American team.”

The Americans will feature CoCo Vandeweghe, Lauren Davis, Shelby Rogers and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. The Czechs will counter with Katerina Siniakova, Kristyna Pliskova, Denisa Allertova and Marketa Vondrousova. Despite toting only one Top-50 player (Siniakova), the Czechs have become accustomed to winning at Fed Cup and this weekend in Florida will be no exception.

“We're very confident, as I said, looking forward for the tie with some new players,” said Czech Captain Petr Pala. “They all great players. They climbing on the rankings, so that's good.”

He added: “Well, I think the U.S. team will be the favorites, slightly favorite. But it's only on the paper. I think all the girls can put great performance. We going to try hard as we can to bring three points home.”

Swiss Travel to Belarus

Last year the Swiss made their first Fed Cup semifinal in 18 years before falling to the Czechs. This year, they are back again. They will travel to Minsk to face a Belarus team that is playing in its first ever Fed Cup semifinal. The Swiss will play favorite, with Timea Bacsinszky being the only Top 50 player in the tie. Belarus will have to rely in Aliasksandra Sasnovich (World No.96), but Aryna Sabalenka has also been improving. The 19-year-old has risen over 100 spots in the WTA Rankings in the last 52 weeks.

But the Swiss have the pedigree in this tie – they can get reinforcements from World No.56 Viktorija Golubic, Belinda Bencic and Martina Hingis for doubles.


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