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Halep, Barty, Kerber headline nominations for Fed Cup semifinals and World Group play-offs

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 10 Apr 2019
  • Simona Halep leads Romania against France in the Fed Cup semifinals
  • Ashleigh Barty to clash with Aryna Sabalenka as Australia host Belarus
  • Great Britain name unchanged side for World Group II play-off with Belarus

Simona Halep, Ashleigh Barty and Angelique Kerber headline player nominations for the Fed Cup 2019 semifinals and World Group play-offs.

Five of the world's top 10 players are scheduled to represent their countries when the 2019 Fed Cup semifinals and World Group and World Group II play-offs take place around the world on 20-21 April.

Simona Halep, Ashleigh Barty, Angelique Kerber, Sloane Stephens and Aryna Sabalenka have all been named as the top singles player for their respective nations. You can find the full list of player nominations and details of each tie here.

Caroline Garcia
World no. 2 Simona Halep will be headed to France as the reigning Roland Garros champion spearheads the Romania side hoping to cause an upset in Rouen. Halep played a crucial role in Romania's upset of Fed Cup powerhouses Czech Republic in the first round as she defeated Karolina Pliskova and Katerina Siniakova in singles before compatriots Monica Niculescu and Irina-Camelia Begu combined to win the deciding doubles. 

Romania, who are contesting just the second Fed Cup semifinal in their history, have named the same team to face France, with Halep joined by Mihaela Buzarnescu. Niculescu and Begu. France, who have opted for an indoor clay court at the Kindarena in Rouen, are trying to make it to the final for the second time in four years under the leadership of Julien Benneteau. The former ATP Tour player turned Fed Cup captain will be relying on a team led by world no. 21 Caroline Garcia, whose return to the national side buoyed the French to a brilliant win over Belgium in the first round, with Garcia and Alize Cornet contributing singles wins.

The second semifinal sees Australia hosting Belarus at the Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane, better known as the venue for the Brisbane International. Australia haven't reached the Fed Cup final since 1993 but their hopes will be high thanks to the steady rise of top singles player Ashleigh Barty. The 22-year-old Barty, who made her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open in January, cracked the top 10 for the first time after winning the biggest title of her career at the Miami Open at the end of March, and has an 8-1 Fed Cup singles record.

Ashleigh Barty
Barty will be supported by Daria Gavrilova, Samantha Stosur and Priscilla Hon, but the home side face a tough task against Belarus, who have developed into a surprisingly formidable Fed Cup force in recent years. Finalists in 2017, Belarus will be led by world no. 10 Aryna Sabalenka, who shot to the top of the game in 2018, and can call on world no. 35 Aliaksandra Sasnovich as well as former world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who has struggled for form since returning to the WTA Tour last spring but whose recent run to the Monterrey final was a promising sign. Both Sasnovich, the Brisbane International runner-up in 2018, and two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka have had excellent results on Australian hard courts.

The fourth top-10 player scheduled to appear in Fed Cup from 20-21 April is world no. 5 Angelique Kerber. The reigning Wimbledon champion was absent from Germany's side for their first-round 0-4 defeat to Belarus at home in Braunschweig, as was world no. 18 Julia Goerges, who also returns to the team as Germany travel to Riga to face Latvia. Germany must beat a Latvian side which will be led by world no 13 Anastasija Sevastova and former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko if they are to retain their place in the World Group for 2020.

Also looking to retain World Group status in 2020 are the Czech Republic, who have won the Fed Cup six out of the past eight years but lost to Romania in the first round. The team nominated to face Canada in the play-off is missing top singles players Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova and will be led by world no. 45 Marketa Vondrousova, the Czech Republic's fourth-ranked player, and Karolina Muchova. This could leave the Czech Republic vulnerable if Canada, as expected, name 18-year-old Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu to lead the visiting side.

Johanna Konta
The other nations looking to retain World Group status in 2020 are the USA and Belgium. The USA's chances of overcoming a Swiss side which lacks Dubai champion Belinda Bencic look very strong. Although neither of the Williams sisters are included in the team who will face Switzerland in San Antonio, Texas, the side still looks very strong, led by world no. 8 Sloane Stephens and Charleston champion Madison Keys.

Belgium face an extremely stiff test without top singles player Elise Mertens as they host a Spanish side led by top-30 players Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro.

Play-off ties to determine World Group II are also taking place on 20-21 April, with much of the attention focused on Great Britain's home tie against Kazakhstan. Great Britain has struggled to get out of the regional category in recent years, beaten by Japan in the World Group II play-offs in 2018, but they won all ten of their rubbers in February's group stages and British captain Anne Keothavong has named an unchanged side, with world no. 47 Johanna Konta to be backed up by Katie Boulter, Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Katie Swan.

Great Britain are hoping to return to World Group II for the first time since 1993. Kazakhstan have not yet named their side.

Other World Group II play-offs see Russia hosting Italy, Japan hosting a Netherlands side which does not include Kiki Bertens and Slovakia, led by Dominika Cibulkova and Viktoria Kuzmova, hosting Brazil in Bratislava.

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Halep, Barty, Kerber headline nominations for Fed Cup semifinals and World Group play-offs

Five of the world's top-10 players are scheduled to appear in the Fed Cup semifinals and World Group play-offs 20-21 April 2019 as Simona Halep leads Romania against France in the first semifinal while Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka are due to clash as Australia face Belarus

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