Fed Cup qualifiers wrap: Eight nations book spot in Finals
SIX of the eight seeded nations have booked a spot in the Fed Cup finals following the round’s qualifying action over the weekend. Plenty of top 20 WTA Tour players were running around the courts across the world in a number of tight contests. Fourth seed Germany was the only side to sweep the opponent with a massive 4-0 win over Brazil, while all the seeds got up with the exception of understrength Romania and Great Britain who lost to Russia and Slovakia respectively. The other winners were the United States, Belarus, Spain, Switzerland and Belgium, all of whom join last year’s finalists, France and Australia, the top ranked nation Czech Republic, and the home nation Hungary at the new-style Finals in April.
 USA (3) defeated Latvia (2)
Despite an almost unbelievable fightback from the Latvian visitors, the number one seeds, United States advanced through to the finals with a 3-2 victory in Washington. Not many expected Latvia to put up too much of a fight despite a couple of improved players in Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasija Sevastova, with both succumbing to Grand Slam winners, Serena Williams and Sofia Kenin on Day 1. But out of nowhere in the opposite singles, the Latvian pair turned it around winning the reverse singles both in three sets with the nation’s number one player, Ostapenko defeating Kenin, and then Sevastova stunning 23-time Grand Slam winner Williams in the tightest of matches so far. The result led to a live doubles match, but the familiar pairing of Kenin and Bethany Mattek-Sands ensured the home crowd left happy as the United States booked its spot in the finals.
Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 6-2 6-2
Serena Williams (USA) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 7-6 7-6
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-3 2-6 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) defeated Serena Williams (USA) 7-6 3-6 7-6
S. Kenin / B. Mattek-Sands (USA) defeated J. Ostapenko / A. Sevastova 6-4 6-0
Netherlands (2) defeated by  Belarus (3)
Despite Kiki Bertens‘ best efforts, Netherlands was unable to upset Belarus in the two nations tie. Held in Netherlands, Bertens won both her matches against fellow top 15 player, Aryna Sabalenka, and the plucky improving Aliaksandra Sasnovich, but both players took down Arantxa Rus in their respective singles. The pair then combined in the doubles to defeat Bertens and Demi Schuurs, but not without an almighty fight, as the finals spot came down to an epic tiebreaker. In the end, Sabalenka and Sasnovich got up 10-8 in the third set tiebreaker over Bertens and Schuurs, winning 4-6 6-3 7-6 in a thrilling finish to a terrific couple of days.
Kiki Bertens (NED) defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) 6-7 6-2 6-1
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Arantxa Rus (NED) 6-2 6-3
Kiki Bertens (NED) defeated Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 6-4 6-4
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) defeated Arantxa Rus (NED) 0-6 7-5 6-2
A. Sabalenka / A. Sasnovich (BLR) defeated K. Bertens / D. Schuurs (NED) 4-6 6-3 7-6
 Romania (2) defeated by Russia (3)
World number 38, Veronika Kudermetova will owe her teammates after the 22-year-old had a weekend to forget against an understrength Romanian side. Playing her first singles match in the competition since 2014, the top 50 player lost to both world number 90 Ana Bogdan, and more shockingly, world number 197 Jacqueline Adina Cristian. Luckily for Kudermetova, her teammate and in-form Russian top 30 player Ekaterina Alexandrova stepped up, winning against Elena Gabriela Ruse and Bogdan, before recently 21-year-olds Anna Blinkova and Anna Kalinskaya booked a spot in the finals with a straight sets doubles win over Cristian and Ruse.
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Elena Gabriela Ruse (ROU) 6-1 6-4
Ana Bogdan (ROU) defeated Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-3 6-7 6-1
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Ana Bogdan (ROU) 7-5 3-6 7-5
Jaqueline Adina Cristian (ROU) defeated Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 7-5 6-3
A. Blinkova / A. Kalinskaya (RUS) defeated J. Cristian / E. Ruse 6-3 6-2
Brazil (0) defeated by  Germany (4)
Home court advantage did little for Brazil to cause an upset against Germany who did not even bother to play its best side in the qualifying tie. The South American nation was the lowest ranked side of any that competed in the qualifiers, and neither Teliana Pereira or Gabriela Ce – both ranked outside the top 200 could compete against top 100 players, Laura Siegemund and Tatjana Maria. With the tie wrapped up quickly at 3-0, the Pereira-Maria singles did not go ahead, and instead the tie went straight to the doubles, where Anna-Lena Friedsam and Antonia Lottner finished off the tie with a 6-1 6-4 victory over Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani.
Laura Siegemund (GER) defeated Teliana Pereira (BRA) 6-3 6-3
Tatjana Maria (GER) defeated Gabriela Ce (BRA) 6-3 7-6
Laura Siegmund (GER) defeated Gabriela Ce (BRA) 6-1 6-2
A. Friedsam / A. Lottner (GER) defeated L. Pigossi / L. Stefani (BRA) 6-1 6-4
 Spain (3) defeated Japan (1)
A stunning performance from Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo set the tone for the home nation’s win over Japan. Sorribes Tormo took down top 10 star and Grand Slam winner, Naomi Osaka 6-0 6-3 in a performance for the ages in front of home fans, before Carla Suarez Navarro doubled down on the performance with a 6-3 6-4 triumph over top 100 player, Misaki Doi. Opting not to play Osaka in the second match, Japan threw in 137th ranked Kurumi Nara who also suffered defeat at the hands of Suarez Navarro and hand Spain the tie victory. It meant Sorribes Tormo and Doi’s match did not need to be played, instead skipping straight to the doubles, where top 30 pairing, Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama got Japan a consolation match with a 6-2 6-3 win overly Lara Arruabarrena and lowly ranked Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov.
Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) defeated Naomi Osaka (JPN) 6-0 6-3
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-3 6-4
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) defeated Kurumi Nara (JPN) 6-1 6-3
S. Aoyama / E. Shibahara (JPN) defeated L. Arrubarrena / A. Bolsova Zadoinov (ESP) 6-2 6-3
 Switzerland (3) defeated Canada (1)
Switzerland has triumphed over visitors, Canada with the latter nation opting not to use its top star, Bianca Andreescu who was returning from injury. Initially picked to ease her back in via the doubles, the final rubber was not required after the home nation picked up the win 3-1. It did not come without an upset however, as teenager, Leylah Annie Fernandez stunned world number five, Belinda Bencic in straight sets. The 17-year-old is ranked 185th in the world, but she did not look out of place on the world stage, going close to Jil Teichmann in the first match, before upsetting Bencic to keep the tie alive. Unfortunately due to the unavailability of both Andreescu and former top 10 player, Eugenie Bouchard, Canada relied upon specialist doubles player (ranked seventh in doubles but 448th in singles) Gabriela Dabrowski to win a match, but was not surprisingly bowled over in both her singles against Bencic and Teichmann. The tie showed that Fernandez – who does not turn 18 until September – could be one to watch in the future.
Jil Teichmann (SUI) defeated Leylah Annie Fernandez (CAN) 7-6 6-4
Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) 6-1 6-2
Leylah Annie Fernandez (CAN) defeated Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-2 7-6
Jil Teichmann (SUI) defeated Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) 6-3 6-4
 Belgium (3) defeated Kazakhstan (1)
Missing their top ranked young star in Elena Rybakina, Kazkhstan was unable to defeat Belgium on the road, going down to an Elise Mertens-inspired effort. Mertens defeated Zarina Diyas from a set down 1-6 6-2 6-1, before Yulia Putintseva came from behind to knock over Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure in three sets, 3-6 7-6 6-2. On the second day, Mertens and the inclusion of Kirsten Flipkens – who replaced Bonaventure – needed just two sets to down Putintseva and Diyas respectively to move through to the next round. With the tie all wrapped up, the doubles was not required as Flipkens and Greet Minnen were heavy favourites against Anna Danilina and Yaroslava Shvedova.
Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 1-6 6-2 6-1
Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) defeated Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL) 3-6 7-6 6-2
Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-1 7-6
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) defeated Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 6-3 6-4
Slovakia (3) defeated  Great Britain (1)
Slovakia has taken full advantage of an understrength Great Britain outfit, and a home court to defeat the eighth seeds in fairly comfortable fashion 3-1. Slovakia’s top ranked singles player is Viktoria Kuzmova, who defeated Harriet Dart in three sets on Day 1, following on from Anna Karolina Schmiedlova‘s triumph over top ranked Brit, Heather Watson in straight sets. The former top 30 player has had injury and form concerns over the years, and is now ranked outside the top 100. But she was on song over the weekend, collecting two wins including Watson and Dart without too much trouble. Watson did knock over the lowly ranked Rebecca Sramkova, who was subbed in for Kuzmova after the 21-year-old was rested in case she was required for doubles. That was never needed with Slovakia securing the win in just four matches. The storyline could have been different had the visitors had top 15 player, Johanna Konta, but instead they bow out with Slovakia being the ultimate underdogs at the Fed Cup finals.
Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) defeated Heather Watson (GBR) 6-2 6-3
Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) defeated Harriet Dart (GBR) 6-7 6-3 7-5
Heather Watson (GBR) defeated Rebecca Sramkova (SVK) 6-0 7-5
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) defeated Harriet Dart (GBR) 7-5 6-3