Mlade­n­ovic, Gar­cia to spear­head France in Fed­er­a­tions Cup fi­nal

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

France cap­tain Amelie Mau­resmo kept faith in the same play­ers for the Fed Cup fi­nal against the two-time de­fend­ing cham­pion Czech Repub­lic next week.

Caro­line Gar­cia, Kristina Mlade­n­ovic, Al­ize Cor­net, and Pauline Par­men­tier were picked yes­ter­day to face the Czechs at home in Stras­bourg on Nov. 12-13 on an in­door hard court.

The same quar­tet de­feated the Nether­lands in the semi­fi­nals.

The Czechs are bid­ding for a fifth ti­tle in six years, and won the most re­cent meet­ing be­tween the teams, in the semi­fi­nals last year. France has reached the fi­nal for the first time since 2005, and will be bid­ding for a third ti­tle.

While the Czechs were fa­vorites, Mau­resmo said France was far from daunted.

“When you com­pare our­selves to the teams that have been win­ning this com­pe­ti­tion, they al­ways have a top-10 player, and one or two play­ers who won a Grand Slam ti­tle or made it to a ma­jor fi­nal,” she said. “But the rank­ings re­flect a 52-week sea­son. We only need two days.

“A lot of things can hap­pen over two days and five matches. The girls are ca­pa­ble of rais­ing their level to beat top play­ers.”

The Czech team fea­tures six­thranked Karolina Pliskova, twotime Wim­ble­don cham­pion Pe­tra Kvi­tova, Barbora Strycova, and Lu­cie Hradecka.

“It’s ob­vi­ously a tall or­der,” Maursemo said. “They are not only very strong on pa­per, but they have also been play­ing at a very high level in this par­tic­u­lar com­pe­ti­tion.”

Mlade­n­ovic and Gar­cia, who have fea­tured in every French rub­ber this year, were cleared to play af­ter the French Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion lifted their ban in Septem­ber.

The pair was pro­vi­sion­ally sus­pended for “dam­ag­ing” the fed­er­a­tion’s im­age at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where the play­ers crit­i­cized the FTT over a cloth­ing mix-up af­ter their de­feat in the first round of the dou­bles.

Mau­resmo said she thought about giv­ing a nod to the upand-com­ing Oceane Dodin, who won her maiden WTA ti­tle in Que­bec City in Septem­ber. But the co­he­sion of her team pre­vailed over the 71st-ranked player’s form.

“I thought a lot about it, it was log­i­cal given her re­sults over the past months,” Mau­resmo said. “It’s al­ways a dif­fi­cult task to find the right bal­ance be­tween the re­sults of each player and the team spirit.”

Top-seeded Konta opens Elite Tro­phy with win over Stosur

Top-seeded Jo­hanna Konta opened her Elite Tro­phy cam­paign by beat­ing 2011 US Open cham­pion Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-2 yes­ter­day.

Konta broke Stosur’s serve four times and dropped one ser­vice game.

“Against a player like Sam, who plays such a big ball and has such a big game, I re­ally had to do my best to stay there for every sin­gle point and take my chances when­ever they came,” said Konta, who was play­ing her first match since with­draw­ing from the Hong Kong Open last month with an ab­dom­i­nal strain.

The tour­na­ment in Zhuhai fea­tures the lead­ing play­ers on the women’s tour who didn’t qual­ify for the WTA Fi­nals in Sin­ga­pore last week.

Carla Suarez Navarro with­drew be­cause of a right wrist in­jury and was re­placed by Timea Ba­bos, who lost 6-4, 6-2 to Timea Bac­sin­szky in the first match on Day 2.

Bac­sin­szky re­bounded from an open­ing loss to Chi­nese wild-card en­try Zhang Shuai.

Two-time Wim­ble­don cham­pion Pe­tra Kvi­tova beat Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-2 in a night match.

Nishikori, Gof­fin ad­vance to 3rd round at Paris Masters

Kei Nishikori posted his 300th win on tour yes­ter­day, reach­ing the third round of the Paris Masters by beat­ing Vik­tor Troicki 6-2, 7-5.

The fifth-seeded Nishikori, who made it to the semi­fi­nals at the in­door tour­na­ment two years ago, will next face Jo-Wil­fred Tsonga.

“I think it’s a great num­ber,” Nishikori said. “This year has been pretty good.”

Nishikori has re­cov­ered well from the hip in­jury that forced him to re­tire in Tokyo last month. He reached the fi­nal in Basel last week and will be play­ing at the ATP fi­nals later this month in Lon­don for the third time.

David Gof­fin kept alive his slim chances of join­ing Nishikori at the elite tour­na­ment by de­feat­ing Ni­co­las Mahut 7-6 (5), 6-3, but he must win the ti­tle in Paris to clinch one of the re­main­ing two spots at the sea­son-end­ing event.

Among those who can still qual­ify is Marin Cilic, who set up a third-round match with Gof­fin with a 7-6 (7), 6-2 win over Ivo Karlovic. Gof­fin has a 3-0 record over Cilic.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited and sat­is­fied with my form, es­pe­cially these past few months,” Cilic said. “It’s a bat­tle now be­tween me, him, (To­mas) Berdych and Tsonga. I’m just hop­ing to con­tinue with my good ten­nis and find a good way to play him this time.”

Also, 13th-seeded Lu­cas Pouille ral­lied past Feli­ciano Lopez 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round while Jack Sock beat sixth-seeded Do­minic Thiem 6-2, 6-4. Sock hit eight aces and did not face a sin­gle break point.

Caro­line Gar­cia and Kristina Mlade­n­ovic

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