Viet Nam News
PARIS – The Czech Republic target a fifth Fed Cup title in six years against a French side desperate to bury a summer of in-fighting which threatened to torpedo their hopes in the final.
Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, the world’s top doubles team, were suspended by France for "unacceptable" behaviour at the Rio Olympics after blasting their own federation.
Mladenovic had taken to Twitter to vent her fury that officials had been "incompetent" when they failed to tell the players about tournament rules whereby they had to wear the same colours on court, forcing Garcia into a last-minute change of kit borrowed from her teammate.
But the pair were reinstated in late September, clearing them to return for the final on Saturday and Sunday in Strasbourg where France will bid for a first Fed Cup since 2003.
As well as being French Open doubles champions, Garcia and Mladenovic are France’s top-ranked singles players at 23 and 42 in the world.
Teammates Alize Cornet and Pauline Parmentier are 46 and 73 respectively.
Close friends Garcia and Mladenovic have played in every Fed Cup tie this year – four singles and two doubles in the quarter-final and semi-final wins against Italy and the Netherlands.
The Czechs, champions in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015, can boast world No 6 Karolina Pliskova, the US Open runner-up this year, and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, currently at 11 in the rankings.
Barbora Strycova, at 20, and Grand Slam winning doubles specialist Lucie Hradecka make up the Czech squad.
"We know it will be extremely difficult but we also know we will have chances," said Mladenovic, who has one win in two meetings against Pliskova and just one in four with Kvitova.
"We have to seize the opportunities which come our way."
The Czechs are second on the list of the most successful Fed Cup nations of all time with nine titles behind the United States who have 17.
Victory on Sunday will make Czech skipper Petr Pala the most successful Fed Cup captain of all time, but he’s taking nothing for granted against a French team seeking a third title after wins in 1997 and 2003.
"To win we need to play better than well," Pala told www.fedcup.com. "We need the quality and form of our players to be there. If all our girls play well, and the way they are capable of, then it will give us a chance."
France will have plenty of experience courtside with captain and former Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo having played in the 2003 title-winning team.
The final features two singles on Saturday with reverse singles and a possibly decisive doubles rubber on Sunday. AFP