The Palexpo arena in Geneva is the venue for this interesting first round clash. Switzerland did well last year taking out the Germans in the first round but falling just short to eventual champions the Czech Republic. As for France, their run saw them qualify for the finals after 11 years and they came so close to winning as underdogs but the Czechs prevailed in the fifth and decisive rubber. Caroline Garcia who was their star player in the final and most of last year does not return to the squad and this may prove a disadvantage to the French team.
Solid Swiss team
The same group of players returns to the team with the likes of Timea Bacsinszky, Viktorija Golubic, Belinda Bencic and Martina Hingis. It is a solid team from the captain but the players have struggled for form recently. Both Golubic and Bencic have yet to register a win in the calendar year while Bacsinszky has only entered one tournament which is the Australian Open with two wins under her belt. It could be a big test for the players but they have shown their worth like when Golubic played out her best performance last year against the Czechs. They may need that sort of performance to rattle the French squad.
“New” French team
In Garcia’s absence, the team will look upon Kristina Mladenovic to lead the way alongside Alizé Cornet, Pauline Parmentier, and newest member Amandine Hesse. Mladenovic is riding high on form having just won her maiden title and will need to lead by example for the rest who have not been actively competing in the Fed Cup. Cornet is also another player who started the season strong and would be other key singles player as the team looks to advance to the second round.
Day one action begins with the top players from both teams, Bacsinszky and Cornet, take on each other. Cornet leads their head-to-head 3-1 with one of it coming in their last meeting in the Fed Cup in 2014. Cornet will look to extend their record but will have a battle on her hand against the higher ranked player.
The second rubber sees good friends go against each other in Mladenovic and Bencic. They share the spoils in the wins but Mladenovic did defeat the Swiss in the Hopman Cup this year which could work as a psychological advantage. Bencic hasn’t had the best start to the season and the former top 10 player may soon find herself out of the top 100. She would very much want to win to get herself the boost she needs but standing in her is a way is a red-hot Mladenovic though it depends if the Frenchwoman continues where she left off after winning her first title.
Nominations for day two may change but as it stands Bacsinszky will go up against Mladenovic while Bencic takes on Cornet in the last singles rubber. Mladenovic won their only previous meeting and if she performs like she did winning her title she has a good shot again to replicate and get the win. The second rubber can go either way as they both have a win apiece. It would depend on the Bencic’s confidence level though and if Cornet can be consistent to seal the job for France.
If it does go to a deciding doubles rubber, it will be very interesting as both teams have solid doubles players in Mladenovic and Hingis respectively. It could go right down the wire in the end against these two teams.