After a thrilling first round in the Fed Cup 2014 World Group back in February, the semi-finals are finally upon us, with defending Champions Italy facing a tough task in reaching their second consecutive final.
Per Fed Cup, the Italians have made the final five times in the last eight years, but the world's No. 2-ranked nation, the Czech Republic, now stand in their way of making it six from nine.
On the other side of the draw, Germany take on Australia, both having breezed through their respective ties. Below, we look at how the semi-finals have shaped up and predict the Fed Cup World Group finalists. See the Fed Cup site for match start times.
|Fed Cup World Group Semi-Finals|
|April 19-20||CEZ Arena, Ostrava, Czech Republic||Czech Republic||Italy||Hard, indoor||Tennis Channel Live|
|April 19-20||Queensland Tennis Centre, Brisbane, Australia||Australia||Germany||Hard, outdoor||Tennis Channel Live|
Czech Republic vs. Italy
Favourites heading into the tournament, Italy lived up to their billing with a convincing 3-1 victory over the USA in the first round.
They dropped just one set in the singles to the Americans, with Camila Giorgi and Karin Knapp recording vital victories, though Lauren Davis and Madison Keys did get USA on the board in the doubles.
The Italian side are in good spirits ahead of their clash with the Czech Republic, as Roberta Vinci’s photo suggests:
They’ll need to produce the goods against the highly rated Czechs, though, who won both the 2011 and 2012 titles.
In both 2012 and 2013, the sides met each other at the semi-final stage, with the winner going on to be the group’s eventual champion.
Headed up by world No. 6 Petra Kvitova, the Czechs will be full of confidence in front of a home crowd at the CEZ Arena, but nothing can be taken for granted in the Fed Cup.
It’ll be a tight, dogged affair, that’s for sure, but the Czechs may just have too much firepower for the Italians, and will likely shade it.
Prediction: Czech Republic 3-2 Italy
Australia vs. Germany
Meanwhile, in the other semi-final, Australia will name an unchanged side against the Germans with Sam Stosur, Casey Dellacqua, Ashleigh Barty and Storm Sanders all back in action.
Team captain Alicia Molik has challenged her side to make history for Australian tennis in the nation’s first semi-final since 1993, per the Australian Associated Press, via The Australian:
“It's a great opportunity for our team. The women know that and they want to exploit the Germans as much as possible. It's time for us to make our little piece of history I think.”
However, making history would mean overcoming a German side that includes the formidable Angelique Kerber, who hasn’t dropped a set so far in this year’s Fed Cup.
Ranked as world No. 7, Kerber made light work of her Slovakian opponents in the first round and will once again line up alongside Andrea Petkovic, Julia Gorges and Anna Groenefeld as Barbara Rittner’s picks.
Per Fed Cup, Germany and Australia have met 12 times in their respective Fed Cup histories, with the Aussies currently holding an 8-4 lead.
With that record and the way that Australia conducted themselves in their 4-0 first-round demolition of Russia, they’ll likely be a tough outfit to beat in this semi-final.
However, the two-time champions Germany have a secret weapon in the form of Kerber and won’t be afraid to use her. It’ll be drama of the highest order, no doubt, but Germany are looking the stronger outfit.
Prediction: Germany 3-2 Australia