Czech Republic will be away at Switzerland for their Fed Cup semifinal tie and will look to continue the defence of their title. The first match will feature world number 17 Timea Bacsinszky going up against world number 33 Barbora Strycova. The Swiss team, back in the World Group for the first time in 12 years, stunned Germany in the opening round and will be looking to book their place in their second Fed Cup final.
Both players experienced opposite starts to 2016. While Strycova enjoyed a steady one having locked in a final appearance in Dubai and round of 16 showings in Indian Wells and the Australian Open, Bacsinszky on the other hand lost five of her first six matches of the year before finally steadying the ship with round of 16 appearances in Doha and Indian Wells and more recently reaching the semifinals of the Miami Open.
In the opening round tie against Germany, Bacsinszky, who was still regaining her form at that time, was dismantled in straight sets by both Annika Beck and Angelique Kerber. Strycova on the other hand played a crucial role in leading her home nation to this stage when she and Karolina Pliskova won the decisive doubles rubber against Romania.
This will be their first meeting on Fed Cup duty. Strycova's wins came in Amelia Island (2008), Luxembourg (2010) and the US Open last year. She leads 2-0 on hardcourts.
This is a must-win rubber for the home team as it could serve as a much-needed morale booster after being hit by the withdrawal of its top-ranked player, Belinda Bencic, earlier in the week. As the highest-ranked player, there could be pressure on Bacsinszky's shoulders. Although Strycova won their last match at the US Open last year, it is worth noting that the Swiss was struggling during that part of the season having lost her last three matches.
It will not be a surprise to see Strycova come out confident and determined to give the Czechs a lead since she and Pliskova were not only victorious in doubles while away at Romania, but also in the final last year against Russia. Moreover, she has more experience at this level of Fed Cup and possesses a game full of variety that causes her opponents many troubles.
However, Bacsinszky, who has regained her form, could once again be the dangerous player she was throughout the past year. Having said that, she will not want to have Switzerland start its semifinal campaign on a low note and will be ready to give her all in front of her home crowd. Strycova will put up a good fight but Bacsinszky should ultimately prevail and give the Swiss team a lead.
Prediction: Timea Bacsinszky in three sets