Bacsinszky leads Swiss quest for final berth
LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND: Switzerland and Czech Republic both may not be at full strength in Lucerne this weekend but this first meeting between the two nations since 2000 in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinals still remains hugely intriguing.
As Switzerland bid to book a place in a first final since 1998, they have a team of only three players at the Messe Luzern after failing to nominate a replacement for world No. 10 Belinda Bencic, who was forced to withdraw from the tie due to a back injury.
Unbeaten in its last seven ties, Czech Republic arrives here to contest a remarkable eighth consecutive semifinal with a formidable team of four, such is its strength of depth, even though Fed Cup stalwarts Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova are both absent.
But this is still an evenly-matched tie on paper with just one place in the world rankings separating the respective No. 1 players, Timea Bacsinszky at No. 17 and Karolina Pliskova at No. 18.
Both will hope to claim a point for their team on the opening day with Bacsinszky taking on Barbora Strycova in the first singles rubber, before Pliskova faces Fed Cup singles debutant Viktorija Golubic.
Czech Republic captain Petr Pala said: “Switzerland is a strong team, even without Belinda. All players in the team have won important matches which gives them confidence. I think it is quite an open tie. We might be slight favourites but they play on home soil, they chose the balls, they chose the surface, so I think we are going to see very interesting tennis this weekend.”
Bacsinszky will hope for a more enjoyable weekend than the first-round tie against Germany back in February. Although Switzerland ultimately progressed, the 26-year-old was left disappointed after failing to claim a set in her two singles rubbers. A semifinal appearance in Miami a fortnight ago ensures she comes here with confidence at least.
Strycova made her Fed Cup debut 14 years ago but in recent years the 30-year-old has more commonly been used in doubles in the competition. A return to the Fed Cup singles court beckons on Saturday and she has a 3-0 head-to-head record over Bacsinszky – never dropping a set - to take some sort of psychological edge from.
“I don’t know if it’s a huge confidence [boost] but it is a little bit because last year I played her,” said world No. 33 Strycova. “The other two matches were many years ago so I don’t count that. It’s going to be a different match tomorrow because the whole crowd are going to push her to play her best tennis. I have to be ready for that.”
Pliskova has only played once before as the Czech No. 1 but the 24-year-old already boasts an impressive Fed Cup record, losing just one of the eight rubbers she has played in the competition. She will hope that can continue this weekend despite struggling for consistency on the tour so far this year.
Pliskova is certainly the overwhelming favourite against world No. 129 Golubic, the 23-year-old who plays singles in Fed Cup for the first time after three doubles appearances, the last of which was that crucial win against Poland last year which secured Switzerland’s return to the World Group.
Golubic said: “I’m very happy. I think it’s even more special that we can play at home. It’s my first time at home and now my debut in singles, so it’s a very special moment. I’m nervous but I think it is in a good way. I like a challenge like this and step on court at moments like that.”
Switzerland captain Heinz Guenthardt will be crossing his fingers for no injuries between now and the end of the weekend, although he does consider all three players in his team, including 35-year-old Martina Hingis, capable of playing singles and doubles if required.
“Of course we would have liked to have a fourth player that reinforces the team,” admitted Guenthardt. “However that was not possible because of injuries with the other players that would have moved up when Belinda was injured.
“Otherwise, we are not short of a player if something happens because we do have three singles players and three doubles players, so this is the strongest team we can possibly have. This is the team that played against Poland and beat them 3-2.”
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) v Barbora Strycova (CZE)
R2: Viktorija Golubic (SUI) v Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
R3: Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) v Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
R4: Viktorija Golubic (SUI) v Barbora Strycova (CZE)
R5: Timea Bacsinszky/Martina Hingis (SUI) v Denisa Allertova/Lucie Hradecka (CZE)
Read more at http://www.fedcup.com/en/news/227017.aspx#lkcisZrhthLMSZKe.99