Fed Cup World Group I Playoffs Draw Announced
Venus Williams waves the American Flag after their World Group II victory. Photo: Fed Cup

The Fed Cup World Group I Playoff matchups are set. On April 16th and 17th, eight teams will do battle looking to clinch a spot in the top group for the 2017 season. The draw was announced earlier today, confirming who will play who in the battle to reach the World Group I. Here is a break down of the Fed Cup World Group I draw.

Russia vs Belarus

The big surprise of the first round of the Fed Cup was Russia’s loss to the Netherlands in the World Group I. The Russians will look to stay in the world group when they take on Belarus. Russia, who is the top seed in the playoffs, will be aiming to stay in the World Group I on home soil, as they will be hosting Belarus.

Svetlana Kuznetsova in action last weekend in the World Group I. Photo: Fed Cup
Svetlana Kuznetsova in action last weekend in the World Group I. Photo: Fed Cup

The tie will be the first between the two eastern European nations in any form of the World Group. The neighbors played each other three straight years from 1995 to 1997 in the Europe/Africa group. Surprisingly, Belarus leads the head to head 2-1, but Russia swept their most recent meeting in 1997.

A lot in this tie will depend on who is nominated, as the Russians have considerably more depth than the Belarusians. They will desperately need Victoria Azarenka if Belarus wants to hand Russia another upset.

Italy vs Spain

Second seeds Italy will be heading across the Tyrrhenian and Balearic seas to take on Spain. The Italians were just defeated on the west coast of Europe, falling to France in their World Group I tie last weekend.

Italy's Fed Cup team. Photo: Fed Cup
Italy's Fed Cup team. Photo: Fed Cup

This match will break the current tie in their rivalry, as the pair of nations have split their previous six meetings 3-3. Spain won their most recent match, edging the Italians back in 2008. Interesting fact: the road team has won three of the four ties hosted by one of the competing countries (twice they played at a neutral site).

Spain was dominant in their World Group II tie, which helped that they were led by their top two player, Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro. Italy was without their number one, Roberta Vinci, but will need her if they want to stay in the World Group I.

Germany vs Romania

This tie guarantees that one team who competed in the World Group I this year will be demoted, as both Germany and Romania were defeated 3-2 in their respective World Group I ties. It is the lone World Group Playoff featuring two teams who were in the top group this year. Romania will be hosting the tie. Both teams were at full strength, but could not battle past very difficult opposition. Germany won their lone previous tie, coming way back in 1974.

Simona Halep plays a forehand during Romania's first round loss. Photo: Fed Cup
Simona Halep plays a forehand during Romania's first round loss. Photo: Fed Cup

A big question mark for the Romanians is Simona Halep’s health. The current world number three has pushed back nose surgery several times in the last few weeks, meaning it could interfere with the tie, whether it means she has the surgery or is not well enough to play. Without Halep, it is hard to see Romania staying in the top group.

Australia vs United States

Just as the previous tie guarantees one of the World Group I teams will be demoted, this tie guarantees that one World Group II team will be promoted, as both Australia and the USA won their World Group II ties last weekend, and will now battle for a spot in the World Group I. This tie features both non-European teams seeking promotion. Australia will host the tie.

Venus Williams in action last weekend during the USA's victory. Photo: Fed Cup
Venus Williams in action last weekend during the USA's victory. Photo: Fed Cup

These two teams have a long rivalry, dating all the way back to 1963. The USA leads the head-to-head 8-5, including six of their last seven meetings, the most recent coming back in 1985. Australia’s last victory came in 1975. Most of their ties have been played at neutral venues.

The Americans certainly have more depth than the Australian’s, even without Serena Williams. The Australian’s were without several of their stronger players last weekend. They will need to be at full strength to take on the Americans.

The World Group I Playoffs will take place on April 16-17th, with the winners being promoted to the World Group I in 2017. Which tie are you most excited for?

VAVEL Logo