With the Fed Cup World Group playoffs being played next week, Fed Cup announced the players who will be participating in next week’s competition on their social media, with Russia surprisingly putting in a very strong team to go against Belgium in their quest to prevent themselves from dropping out of the World Group. Against Belgium, whose team is lacking their two most famous players in Yanina Wickmayer and Kirsten Flipkens, Russia unexpectedly fielded a team consisting of Indian Wells champion Elena Vesnina, Monterrey champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Charleston champion Daria Kasatkina, with the up and coming youngster Anna Blinkova receiving a second Fed Cup nomination after her first earlier this year. Russia would definitely be the huge favorites coming into this tie, considering three of their players has each won a title in the past month.
Daria Kasatkina has just recently won the title on the green clay courts of Charleston, with her form being very impressive as it was just her first WTA title of her young career. One big question is would Kasatkina be able to carry over the momentum to the indoor clay courts of Moscow, where the large Russian crowds can prove to be a major help. This will just be Kasatkina’s third appearance in a Fed Cup tie.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has been silently having a successful season, earning four top 10 wins in just the first four months of the year. Defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova twice in Australia and Dominika Cibulkova in Indian Wells, Pavlyuchenkova had her best victory (rankings-wise) of her career as she upset world number one Angelique Kerber in the final of Monterrey to win her fourth title there. Playing on the clay courts for the first time this year, we would see if the Russian would be able to transit well from the fast hard courts. This is Pavlyuchenkova’s first Fed Cup nomination since 2015.
Anna Blinkova is the only youngster of the Russian team as the 134th ranked player will once again take in part in another Fed Cup tie to gain some experience. Despite Russia being the clear favourites in the tie, captain Anastasia Myskina has only decided to field one young player in the team. After a disappointing debut Fed Cup tie against Chinese Taipei which saw her lose her first ever match in this competition, Blinkova would want to seal a point for Russia this time. This was just Blinkova’s second Fed Cup nomination in her young career.
Elena Vesnina has had a pretty impressive season so far, shocking the whole tennis world by strolling to win the title in Indian Wells, coming from 6-7, 1-4 down in the final to triumph against compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova. This allowed her to be solidly ranked inside the top eight of the Road to Singapore leaderboard, and affirm her position in the Top 15 of the rankings. Other than her triumph in California, her season has been particularly with some disappointing results in the other tournaments. This is Vesnina’s first time being the highest ranked player in the Fed Cup nominated team.
Some notable absentees from this tie for the Russia team are Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ekaterina Makarova, and Natalia Vikhlyantseva. Understandably, the Stuttgart Open and the Istanbul Cup would start just a day after the tie is completed, which makes some sense in why these players opted not to play since Russia has a depth of players available for this tie.