With Dominika Cibulkova absent due to injury, Slovakia faces a struggle as they try to book a return to the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group in 2018, hosting the Netherlands in Bratislava: Latest news, results, fixtures and analysis from Slovakia vs Netherlands!
Fed Cup champions in 2002 when Daniela Hantuchova led the team, Slovakia have been out of the World Group since 2015 and will be very keen to book a return with a victory over the Netherlands at home in Bratislava.
With world no. 4 Dominika Cibulkova leading the team, supposed by Kristina Kucova and Jana Cepelova, Slovakia will still be wary of the Netherlands, who have emerged as an unexpected Fed Cup powerhouse recently and made the semifinals in 2016 and are led by last year’s French Open semifinalist Kiki Bertens.
Slovakia vs Netherlands Fed Cup match schedule
Rubber #1: Jana Cepelova (SVK) vs Richel Hogenkamp (NED), Saturday 22 April (1pm local/12pm BST)
With world no. 4 Dominika Cibulkova unable to participate in the World Group play-off tie against the Netherlands as expected due to injuring her wrist in a fall while practicing for the tie, it falls to world no. 99 Jana Cepelova to get Slovakia off to a winning start in Bratislava as they try to book their place in the World Group for 2018.
Cepelova is best known for a surprise run to the final of the Volvo Car Open in Charleston in 2014 and has scored wins over Serena Wiliams, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza in the past, but the diminutive Slovak is rather erratic in her results, hence her ranking on the brink of dropping out of the top 100, although she did impress at the Miami Open when she qualified for the main draw before beating Andrea Petkovic and 18th seed Coco Vandeweghe. Cepelova is only 2-4 in Fed Cup singles and has lost her last four singles rubbers, so Cibulkova's absence is really a boon for 2016 semifinalists the Netherlands.
Captain Paul Haarhuis selected Richel Hogenkamp, the world no. 136. Hogenkamp has lost twice to Cepelova, although that last defeat came via retirement, but recently finished runner-up at an indoor event and is 7-3 in Fed Cup singles, with one of the highlights of her record a 10-8 in the third defeat of Svetlana Kuznetsova during the Netherlands' unexpected run to the 2016 semifinals.
Rubber #2: Rebecca Sramkova (SVK) vs Kiki Bertens (NED), Saturday 22 April (3pm local/1pm BST)
20-year-old Rebecca Sramkova was the heroine of Slovakia's World Group II quarterfinal victory over Italy back in February, when she beat Francesca Schiavone and Sara Errani, and enjoys as a consequence a 2-0 record in Fed Cup singles.
A young player who has yet to really make her mark on the WTA, Sramkova won two ITF titles on clay in 2016 (and a third on hard courts) to be ranked world no. 126 and is clearly working to transition upwards on to the main tour, successfully qualifying for the Australian Open in January although she comes into this World Group play-off having lost her last four matches in qualifying for Budapest, Indian Wells, Miami and Biel.
World no. 20 Kiki Bertens is definitely the favourite to get this point for the Netherlands. A French Open semifinalist in 2016, Bertens never really kicked on from that particular achievement despite her very powerful, aggressive and effective game, but she did win her first title as a qualifier in Nurnberg last year and finished runner-up in Gstaad as well. So far in 2017, she's been a quarterfinalist at Auckland and Bogota.
What Bertens does have going for her is an excellent Fed Cup record. She is 16-2 in singles, including wins over Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic in last year's semifinals against France and seems to produce her best when playing for her country, which doesn't bode well for Sramkova.
Latest Slovakia vs Netherlands Fed Cup results
Check back for the latest Slovakia vs Netherlands results when play begins on Saturday 22 September
Team Slovakia: Dominika Cibulkova, Kristina Kucova, Jana Cepelova, Rebecca Sramkova, Matej Liptak (captain)
Team Netherlands: Kiki Bertens, Richel Hogenkamp, Cindy Burger, Arantxa Rus, Paul Haarhuis (captain)
World no. 4 Dominika Cibulkova hit a new career high when the former Australian Open runner-up won the season-ending WTA Finals Singapore in 2016, and although the diminutive but feisty Cibulkova hasn’t done anything quite that spectacular so far in 2017 – her best results have been semifinals in St Petersburg and Doha – she is 20-11 in Fed Cup singles and was a part of the team that made the semifinals in 2013.
Slovakia will be relying heavily on Cibulkova, who is backed up by world no. 81 Kristina Kucova and world no. 96 Jana Cepelova – the latter is capable of playing much better than her current ranking, however, and has beaten the likes of Petra Kvitova in the past as well as making a Premier-level final in Charleston.
The Netherlands made a surprise run to the semifinals of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas in 2016 with all members of their team playing above their usual level. World no. 20 Kiki Bertens has two career titles and was a semifinalist at the French Open last year after an impressive run, but has done little of note since. However, Bertens usually plays above herself in Fed Cup and Slovakia will be wary of the Netherlands side.
Fed Cup format
Fed Cup ties are played over the best of five rubbers over two days. Two singles rubbers are played on Saturday, followed by the reverse singles rubbers on Sunday with the tie going to a deciding doubles rubber if necessary.
Player nominations can be changed up until an hour before the start of play.
One nation hosts the tie, with the choice of ground decided by where the two competing teams played last time. The Netherlands hosted Slovakia in Appeldoorn for their last meeting in 2015 and the Slovaks have chosen the indoor clay courts of the AEGON Arena in Bratislava for the 2017 Fed Cup World Group play-off tie.
The winner of the Slovakia vs Netherlands World Group play-off tie will be assured of a place among the elite eight-nation World Group for the 2018 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas.
Slovakia vs Netherlands: The history
Head to head: Slovakia vs Netherlands 1-2
Slovakia and the Netherlands have met three times, most recently in 2015 when Kiki Bertens and Arantxa Rus combined for three singles wins over Magdalena Rybarikova and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, with Richel Hogenkamp and Michaella Krajicek combining for a doubles win.
Surprise semifinalists in the Fed Cup World Group in 2016, the Netherlands suffered an equally surprise defeat to a Belarusian side sans Victoria Azarenka in February and will be keen to arrest the slide. Their 2016 run to the semifinals was their best result since 1997 when they reached the second of their two Fed Cup finals.
Slovakia played as part of the Czech Republic until 1992. As an independent nation, they won their first and only Fed Cup crown in 2002 when the team was led by Daniela Hantuchova, who holds the record for most singles wins for Slovakia. They made the semifinals in 2013 but have struggled for the past couple of seasons, last appearing in the World Group in 2015.