France host the Netherlands at Trélazé for their semifinal tie on the 16th and 17th of April. The tie will be played indoors on red clay which should give France the slight edge. France will be looking to end their 11-year drought since they made the finals. While Netherlands will be hoping to reach the heights of 1997 when they last reached the finals.
France Team: Full Strength Squad But Shaky
Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, who both combined well playing all the rubbers in the quarterfinals to earn France back-to-back semifinals, remain on the team. Mladenovic is the highest ranked player in the squad at 29, but she has been struggling for wins lately. She has a 5-10 win-loss record with the latest loss coming at Charleston on clay where she went out in another early round.
Garcia has had a better year compared to her compatriot, reaching two semifinals this year in Dubai and Monterrey. However, she did go out in the first round on clay recently in Charleston. Together they have had more success having reached two doubles finals this year before seemingly faltering and now looking to reach their third final this year at Charleston.
Also remaining in the squad is veteran Pauline Parmentier, who is the most in-form player on the team at the moment. She currently has 19 wins under her belt this year and is still in contention in Katowice, hoping to reach the finals. With her best players looking out of form lately, captain Amélie Mauresmo could look to Parmentier if needed.
Alizé Cornet returns to the side having sat out the last time. She is slowly regaining her form after coming back from a back injury. After winning Hobart earlier this year and then succumbing to the injury, Cornet has had a relatively decent run of matches. With Cornet back in the side, it provides much depth in the French squad and Mauresmo has more options for the singles rubbers.
Netherlands Team: The Squad That Took Out Russia
The Netherlands have stuck to the same squad that posed an impressive win over Russia in the quarterfinals. Kiki Bertens, their strongest player, has had a relatively good start to the season thus far, and she almost took out the world number two in Miami if not for a stomach issue. If she is fit and healthy, she could once again be a problem for the opponents in the way she dispatched Ekaterina Makarova and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Richel Hogenkamp, currently ranked 138, has not made into the main draw of any WTA tournaments yet, though she has reached the finals of an ITF event and stunned Kuznetsova for her biggest win this year.
Completing the side are Cindy Burger and Arantxa Rus. Burger, who mainly competes in the ITF did make it to the quarterfinals of Rio. Rus on the other hand, has a double titles to her name this year in ITF Beinasco on clay.
The two countries have met six times previously, with France holding a 5-1 lead. The last time they met was at the 1997 finals ,where France recorded a convincing 4-1 victory to lift the Fed Cup trophy for the first time. They have since just won one more time in 2003 and would be hoping to carve one more chance for themselves should they reach the finals. Netherlands on the other hand had the best record reaching the finals in 1968 and 1997.
Looking at the players on both sides, even though France boast a full strength squad with three players in the top 50, their recent form could play a part in the tie. For the Netherlands, though they have only just one top 100 player in their squad in Bertens, they have proven themselves by beating the mighty Russians earlier this year. And we have so often learned that rankings don’t usually matter when it comes to the Fed Cup.
It could turn out to be an interesting clash, but with the tie being played on home ground and on their favorite clay, the advantage might just be with France to reach their fifth final. The Netherlands would have their best chance in the singles rubbers and if they can survive the first day winning at least one rubber, they might apply pressure on the home side. Bertens and Hogenkamp, the likely players to feature in the singles rubbers, have a combined impressive 20-3 record in singles in the Fed Cup. If they do trouble the Frenchwomen and bring the tie to a deciding doubles rubber, France should nick it with their experienced pairing of Mladenovic and Garcia.