Mladenovic, Garcia to spearhead France in Fed Cup final

November 2, 2016

PARIS (AP) — 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 on Wednesday 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 sixth-ranked Karolina Pliskova, two-time 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 up-and-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.”