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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, November 11, 2016

 
Kristina Mladenovic, Karolina Pliskova

France's Kristina Mladenovic will face Czech No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening match of this weekend's Fed Cup final in Strasbourg.

Photo credit: Fed Cup Facebook

Karolina Pliskova and Kristina Mladenovic helped their respective nations clinch Fed Cup final berths.

Tomorrow, they'll face off to open the Fed Cup final.

More: France Aiming For Upset In Fed Cup Final

The draw for this weekend's Fed Cup final was conducted today in Strasbourg pitting familiar faces in pivotal roles.

Czech No. 1 Pliskova opens against French No. 2 Mladenovic on the hard court of the Rhenus Sport Arena in Strasbourg, France.

The pair have split two prior singles meetings and their last two doubles meetings with Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia defeating Pliskova and Julia Goerges in the WTA Finals in Singapore months after Pliskova and Goerges knocked the French pair out of the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova will play French No. 1 Garcia in the second singles. Kvitova has beaten Garcia in two of their three meetings, including a 6-4, 6-4 sweep on the Ostrava hard court in their 2015 Fed Cup clash. Kvitova is 3-1 lifetime against Mladenovic, including a straight-sets sweep in Ostrava last year.







The 11th-ranked Kvitova has won 16 of her last 18 matches, including title runs in Wuhan, where she beat five Top 20 players, including world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, in succession and in Zhuhai last weekend.

Two-time defending champion Czech Republic has won eight straight Fed Cup ties and is playing for its fifth Fed Cup championship in the last six years. If the Czechs pull off the rare three-peat they will join 17-time champion United States as only the second nation in history to win double digit Fed Cup championships.

Contesting its first Fed Cup final since 2005, France is playing for its third Fed Cup championship and first-ever title on home soil.



In Sunday's reverse singles, Garcia will play Pliskova with Mladenovic set to face Kvitova. The doubles finale is scheduled to pit Lucie Hradecka and Barbora Strycova against the French duo of Alize Cornet and Pauline Parmentier. Though if the two teams are level going into a decisive doubles match, it's quite likely French captain Amélie Mauresmo will start reigning Roland Garros doubles champions Garcia and Mladenovic instead of Cornet and Parmentier.

World No. 2 doubles players Garcia and Mladenovic have combined to play all 10 of France's Fed Cup matches this season, including clinching its 3-2 semifinal victory over The Netherlands with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Kiki Bertens and Richel Hogenkamp in the decisive doubles staged on red clay in Trélazé, France. Both Mladenovic (9-0) and Garcia (5-0) are undefeated in Fed Cup doubles matches.



Here are three story lines to follow in this weekend's Fed Cup final.

1. Fatigue Factor

The 24-year-old Pliskova enters the final following the heaviest single-season workload of her career. Pliskova played 110 total matches—65 singles matches and 45 doubles matches—how will she hold up physically and emotionally to Fed Cup pressure?

Following her run to the US Open final where she pushed Angelique Kerber to three sets, Pliskova posted a 4-5 record with five of her last six matches going the three-set distance.

Garcia has contested 116 matches this season, posting a 34-25 singles record and 43-14 doubles mark. While Mladenovic has been busier than any starter in the final, playing 122 total matches in 2016, registering a 31-31 singles record and 44-16 doubles mark.

2. Surface Supremacy

France chose a hard court rather than red clay, which was the surface for its semifinal win. Will the surface favor the defending champion?

Kvitova and Pliskova were two of the Top 10 players in hard-court wins this season. Kvitova was fifth on the WTA Tour in hard-court victories, winning 36 of her 46 matches on hard court. Pliskova posted 27 of her 43 victories on hard court, including knocking off three Top 10 players victories—Svetlana Kuznetsova, Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber—winning the Cincinnati title in August. Pliskova pounded 530 aces to lead the WTA in aces, while Kvitova hit 223 aces.



3. Home Court Advantage

In recent years, home-court advantage has been a strength though over the past decade road teams have won almost as much as the host in Fed Cup finals.

The home side has won the last four Fed Cup finals with the Czech Republic victorious in three of those finals. Including Russia's 3-2 victory over France in the 2005 final at Roland Garros, the host has won six of 11 Fed Cup finals. France, which typically enjoys enthusiastic support from its fans, has prevailed in its last four home ties.

France's last Fed Cup loss was a 3-1 setback to host Czech Republic on a hard court in Ostrava.


 

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