TO LEAD U.S. IN FED CUP SEMIFINALS
Ashley Marshall | April 11, 2018
Reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens headlines Team USA’s Fed Cup squad set to contest the 2018 World Group semifinals in France next weekend.
In addition to world No. 9 Stephens (pictured above), U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi named world No. 13 Madison Keys, world No. 16 Coco Vandeweghe and former world No. 1 doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands to her four-player team traveling to Marseille.
The best-of-five match series will be played at the Aréna du Pays d’Aix in Aix-en-Provence in southern France, April 21-22, on an indoor clay court.
The winner will advance to the Fed Cup final, to be played Nov. 10-11. Should the U.S. beat France, it would travel to face the winner of the other semifinal between Germany and the Czech Republic.
The United States is looking to reach back-to-back Fed Cup finals for the first time since finishing runner-up in 2009-10, while France is looking to secure a place in its second final since 2005.
It will be the first time this combination of four players will represent the U.S.
in a Fed Cup tie. But Rinaldi’s team does include two of the same players from the squad that played against France when the nations last met in the 2014 World Group playoff in St. Louis.
In that tie, Caroline Garcia won all three points for France, picking up singles victories against Keys and Stephens before teaming with Virginie Razzano to win the decisive doubles rubber against the American duo. Varvara Lepchenko and Christina McHale were named to captain Mary Joe Fernandez’s playoff team for the 2014 tie in St. Louis, but they did not play.
The U.S. is 11-2 all-time against France in Fed Cup play in a rivalry dating back to 1966. The U.S. last beat France in the 2010 World Group first round in Lievin, France.
French Fed Cup captain Yannick Noah named world No. 19 Kristina Mladenovic, No. 120 Pauline Parmentier and No. 195 Amandine Hesse to his team.
Play begins on Saturday, April 21, at 2 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET), and Sunday, April 22, at 1 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET). On Saturday, two singles matches will be played. On Sunday, play continues with two reverse singles matches and the doubles match. A revised schedule for Sunday may take place if a team clinches in the third or fourth match. Tennis Channel will present live daily coverage.
The U.S. Fed Cup team won its record 18th Fed Cup title, and its first since 2000, last November over Belarus in Minsk. Earlier this year, the United States defeated the Netherlands, 3-1, in the World Group first round in Asheville, N.C., while France beat Belgium, 3-2, in Mouilleron le Captif, France.
While France is missing its top-ranked player – world No. 7 Garcia – and the remaining two French women ranked inside the Top 100 – world No. 35 Alize Cornet and No. 95 Oceane Dodin – the U.S. will send three of its top four-ranked players to France.
Stephens currently sits at a career-high No. 9 in the world after winning the Miami Open earlier this month. She will be playing in her sixth Fed Cup after being part of the 2017 championship-winning team in Belarus. She is 3-5 overall in Fed Cup play, including 2-4 in singles.
Keys, meanwhile, is competing in her first Fed Cup tie since the 2016 World Group playoff and holds a 2-2 singles record and 1-1 doubles record in Fed Cup play.
Keys and Stephens will be joined by Vandeweghe, who made Fed Cup history last year by going 8-0 in singles and doubles play to lead the U.S. team to its 18th Fed Cup championship. With six singles wins in 2017, Vandeweghe became the first American to win all six Fed Cup singles matches in one year since the World Group format was instituted in 1995.
Rinaldi’s semifinal team also sees the return of Mattek-Sands, who is currently on the comeback trail after suffering a knee injury at Wimbledon last year that forced her out of competition for the rest of the season. The former top-ranked doubles player holds a 7-0 record in Fed Cup doubles and a 2-6 record in singles, playing in nine ties.
Looking ahead to possible singles matchups in Marseille, Stephens is 2-0 against Mladenovic, while Keys and Vandeweghe each hold 3-1 records against the Frenchwoman. Stephens is also 2-0 against Parmentier, and Vandeweghe won their only matchup in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open. Keys and Parmentier have never played.