Czech Republic have been the dominant Fed Cup nation in recent history lifting the trophy 6 times this decade. It was Romania who did everyone else a turn this year with a 3-2 win on away soil, or Novacrylic Ultracushion®. Ultimately France benefited the most, avoiding the favourites en route to the final where they face Australia in Perth, WA this weekend.
Ash Barty has been perfect for the Aussies winning all of her singles ties in straights – having just bagged the biggest prize purse in professional tennis history you’d fancy that perfect record to remain intact. Barty and Stosur make a tough doubles pairing but we’re giving the edge to France there – Mladenovic and Garcia were the best in the world back in 2016 before Garcia controversially decided to quit the team the following year to focus on singles.
So, the Ajla Tomljanovic singles rubbers are where the tie is likely to be decided. She’s been given the nod for Aussie no.2 status and some slap-dash results analysis suggests she has a good chance. She’s beaten Mladenovic every time they’ve played (ok just twice, both 5 years ago) and Garcia has been in nothing better than terrible form since a surprisingly one-sided 4-6 0-6 1st Round loss to Shuai Zhang at Wimbledon. We reckon Alicia Molik has made a good choice in Tomljanovic as Stosur is probably best concentrating on the doubles and Priscilla Hon lacks experience. However, Ajla will have to turn out better than she has on her last couple of outings – reasonably poor showings versus Gracheva and Kudermetova raise question marks. A shrewd play might be to see how she looks early on before making a move.
Season finale debutants, Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Berrettini will be looking to mix things up in London. Medvedev has recently been described by last year’s ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev as “the best player in the world right now”, Tsitsipas has beaten each of the big 3 (Djokovic twice) and Berrettini’s big game should at the very least be dangerous indoors.
Considering the Big 3, Nadal has the toughest group proposition – in with Medvedev, Zverev and Tsitsipas. Yes he has avoided Federer and Djokovic but will likely face one in the semi-final and the other in the final even if he progresses through ‘Group Andre Agassi’ on one of his least favourite tennis courts. Meanwhile Federer and Djokovic can concentrate on their matches against Thiem and Berrettini, which you would of course expect them to get through unscathed for safe semi-final passage.
Finally, the outcome of the race between Nadal and Djokovic for the year-end no.1 ranking is still in the balance. While concerns remain over the abdominal injury which forced Rafa out of Paris Masters last week it could be a golden chance for Djokovic to swoop in at the death. This visual knocked up by @LiyanageShane / tennisnerds.blogspot.com shows how both can finish 2019 atop the pile.
image credit: @LiyanageShane and email@example.com
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