Fed Cup 2011

An-Sophie Mestach (BEL) From April 16-17th the Fed Cup will be taking place in various locations across the globe with the World Group semi-finals pitting Russia against Italy and Belgium taking on the Czech Republic.

The event is great for the less experienced players to improve and get used to the atmosphere and pressure of high-quality matches.

Belgium in particular will be fielding a weaker team than in previous years after the retirement of Justine Henin and injury to Kim Clijsters.

Stepping in is An-Sophie Mestach, who is the world no.1 on the junior circuit, and another promising youngster in Alison van Uytvanck. Both have just turned 17 and they will join Kirsten Flipkens and Yanina Wickmayer in the Belgian line-up.

They will take on Petra Kvitova, Lucie Safarova, Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova with the latter putting in a dogged display against Caroline Wozniacki at Charleston this week.

For Russia, a strong team has been selected. World number three Vera Zvonareva and 2009 French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova will lead the team along with other familiar faces in Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ekaterina Makarova.

After current French Open champion Francesca Schiavone pulled out of the Fed Cup along with Flavia Pennetta, the Italians will find it tough to hold onto the trophy they’ve held for the past two years.

Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani, Alberta Brianti and Maria Elena Camerin have been given the task of claiming a third successive final appearance in the competition.

Elsewhere in the Fed Cup:

  • A young USA team including Melanie Oudin and Christina McHale will play a strong-looking Germany side in the World Group Play-Offs.
  • Eugenie Bouchard and Rebecca Marino of Canada will face another young talent in Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.
  • Bojana Jovanovski is unlikely to repeat her Heart Award heroics against Slovakia as Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic have returned for Serbia.

The full line-ups and fixtures for the weekend are available on the Fed Cup website.

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Canadian Revolution

REBECCA MARINO Canadians are taking over the world right now.

Justin Bieber is the most famous teenager on the planet (possibly contested with Rebecca Black), Arcade Fire won a Brit and Grammy award recently and they also have rapper Drake.

That’s all coming from the music industry though. When it comes to sport, other than ice hockey and ‘Owen Hargreaves’, they are a bit light on top-class competitors. Luckily, Milos Raonic has stormed the ATP Tour this year and he’s also been joined by Rebecca Marino.

The WTA’s world number 58 is a French-speaking 20-year-old residing in Vancouver. Like her male counterpart she’s already been seen on Ace of Baseline before but only briefly.

She’s reached her highest ranking to date thanks to a final appearance in Memphis last month where she retired against Magdalena Rybarikova due to an abdominal injury picked up in the semi-finals.

Since then Marino has fallen at the first round stage of the BNP Paribas Open and the first qualifying round of the Sony Ericsson Open and with the oncoming clay court season we’ll have to wait and see if she can keep her progress going.

A regular tweeter and a devoutly proud Canadian her Twitter profile has her location down as “i’m oot and aboot, eh?”.

She’s yet to reach Wimbledon or Roland Garros’ main draw which is no doubt something she will aim to achieve come the end of spring.

She has however had experience at Fed Cup level and with herself and Raonic being the top Canadians out there there is a great future for their Hopman Cup team.

It’s helped also by strength in depth. Eugenie Bouchard is currently 374th in the world which is pretty good for a recently turned 17-year-old.

And remember the days when you couldn’t distinguish between Aleksandra Wozniak and Caroline Wozniacki? Well the former has dropped from no.21 to outside the top 100 whilst you may be able to guess where the latter currently situates.

Wozniak is the number two in Canada now and her predecessor has to make sure she doesn’t suffer a similar fate.

Marino doesn’t quite have as many followers as the Bieber yet but if she can recreate half of his success then she’ll be doing Canada even more proud.

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) Justin Bieber

Two 17-year-old Canadians… Can Eugenie Bouchard also put her country on the map?

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