Fed Cup World Group Playoff Preview: United States - Australia
Stosur in Fed Cup action. Photo: AAP/tennis.com/au

The United States and Australia will face off in Fed Cup action this upcoming weekend. The enticing clash will be a battle of both veterans and new blood. The Australians will host the tie down under in Brisbane on a clay court surface. The high-pressure stakes will ask for the players’ best tennis as they battle for a spot in the 2017 Fed Cup World Group.

American Team: Without Top Three

The United States team looks in good form, although they are without their top three ranked players. Serena Williams, fresh off a round of 16 exit to Svetlana Kuznetsova in Miami, will not suit up in the red, white, and blue this weekend. Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens led the Americans to a 4-0 World Group II win earlier this year, but neither of them will take the trip to Australia. But without the trip to Williams' sisters and the recent Volvo Car Open champion, Alicia Molik, Australia's captain told The Australian, "Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are two of the biggest hitters in women's tennis. The fact that the Williams [sisters] are not on the team doesn't make them easy beats. It's going to be incredibly difficult."

With the top three absent, the Americans still deem the favorite with their variety of players. Madison Keys previously failed to defend her finalist points in Charleston but her ability to change direction will be a challenge to overcome for the Aussies. CoCo Vandeweghe is performing better on the doubles court this year, surprisingly. Her kick serve will effectively work against her Australian opponents. Christina McHale is coming fresh off a solid two weeks in Indian Wells in Miami. With a win over Garbiñe Muguruza and a tight match against the world number one, she will take the long trip from the States to the land Down Under confident. Last but not least, Bethanie Mattek-Sands looks to add to her perfect doubles record in Fed Cup action. With her recently winning the Indian Wells-Miami double and making the final in Charleston, there is no doubt she will steal the show in the doubles play.

Keys hugs Fernandez. Photo: Sandra Harwitt
Keys hugs Fernandez. Photo: Sandra Harwitt

Australian Team: Top Players Present

The green and gold will host the World Group Play-off at the Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane. Instead of the surface their home major is contested on, they decided to choose their best suited surface; European red clay. With the clay court season having just begun, it will allow them to get used to the different movements and tactics applied on the dirt. The Fed Cup nominations all boast success on the European surface and they look to add to that success on Sunday with a ticket to the World Group next year.

The Australian team is in full force as they chose their top ranked players to lead them. Samantha Stosur and Daria Gavrilova will most likely play the singles rubbers for their nation, with Arina Rodionova being the back-up singles player and possible shoe-in for the decisive rubber. Gavrilova will make her Fed Cup debut after just gaining eligibilityCasey Dellacqua will of course play in the doubles rubber with her partner potentially being Stosur as they play together on tour. The home team hopes to not follow in their nation's Davis Cup footsteps as Australia lost to the United States earlier this year.

Gavrilova in Perth. Photo: Getty Images
Gavrilova in Perth. Photo: Getty Images

Analysis

The two nations have gone head-to-head 13 previous times. The red, white, and blue lead Australia 8-5. But, the last tie between them was nearly 30 years ago, in 1985. The previous results will have no effect on this upcoming tie as none of the players were of walking age in 1985.

This year’s match-ups have yet to be decided, but both teams will most likely put their best players forward as the tie is of great importance. The expected American line-up will most likely have Keys and Vandeweghe playing in their respective four singles rubbers. To cap off their line-up, Vandeweghe and Mattek-Sands would play in the doubles rubber. McHale may be put into action if one of her teammates suffer from an injury or if Mary Jo Fernandez feels McHale would match-up better in a singles rubber. On the opposition, Gavrilova and Stosur will headline Australia’s singles play with Dellacqua forming one half of their doubles team. Rodionova, just like McHale, will most definitely serve as the green and gold’s back-up player.

The match-ups consist of intriguing affairs. If Vandeweghe is to face Stosur, the match will deem in the Americans' favor. Stosur not only has lost her last three matches against Vandeweghe, but in their last match, the Aussie failed to win more than two games. Previous scar tissue and home performance struggles will put the Aussie in danger of losing both of her singles rubbers to Coco Vandeweghe and another big-serving, hard-hitter in Madison Keys. Daria Gavrilova has never played against either of the United States’ singles nominations, but her performance in last year’s clay court season and in Hopman Cup has proved that she can play scrappy clay court tennis and handle the home-crowd pressure. The doubles rubber is set to see four strong net players. But the slump of the Australian duo has only seen them win three matches in the first four months of the season. On the other hand, the American duo took the title at the BNP Paribas Open in fine fashion. The chemistry, communication, and activeness at net of Vandeweghe and Mattek-Sands will most likely be too much for the team of Dellacqua and Stosur.

Prediction: United States wins 4-1

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