Fed Cup winners – USA, France, Czech, Germany – on to semis

United States d Netherlands 3-0
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams has been playing for 20 years, and at times, she breaks down, but this weekend in Asheville, North Carolina, she was into it and very excited. She won two singles, and she bested Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands. Her backhand is incredibly strong, she returns very well and her first serve is massive.

Williams was in a tough first set until Richel Hogenkamp seems to lose concentration, banging a ball into the stands at 5-5. Once that game slipped out of the Dutch player’s grasp, she didn’t offer much opposition. Venus finished off the clinching match 7-5, 6-1.

Yes, she has aged. When she walks on court and she is feeling good mentally, then she can be patient. Venus not only won twice in singles. The still rising CoCo Vandeweghe grabbed won her match, crawling her way back to win Saturday in three sets.

Believe it or not, Serena Williams returned, one year after she had a child and she couldn’t play. She and Venus lost in doubles, with Serena looking rusty and not ready for competition, even against Lesley Kerkhove/Demi Schuurs, playing together for the first time.

On April 21-22 in the semis, the U.S. has to travel to France, which beat the Belgiums. Do the Williamses want to play in the Fed Cup again?  Possibly, but they have to go to Europe, and while Venus goes everywhere, Serena doesn’t like to travel all the time. That is a toss-up. And yes, even though France is always very good, the Americans are favored. At least for now.

France d Belgium 3-2
It was very close, but finally, Kristina Mladenovic got her head straight and she won all three matches. During the last six months in 2017, she couldn’t play at all, losing and losing, after she had a tremendous first five months. And then she fell down, and further down, and even more further down.
But now, Mladenovic is more comfortable, at least in the Fed Cup. At home in France, she will be very pleased to be in front of the massive crowd. The talkative Alize Cornet couldn’t play this weekend because she was suspended after she missed three out-of-competition doping tests. It is unlikely that she would be able play in April. With Pauline Parmentier losing, maybe the French will bring in the 21-year-old Oceane Dodin? Possible.

Czech Republic d Switzerland 3-0
The Czechs win every singles easily, as they have an incredible depth. Once again, in Prague, Petra Kvitova cracked Belinda Bencic 6-2 6-4 and they took it easily. It appears that Kvitova has become more consistent, she is moving the right way, and she is returning very well. This season, she has a chance to win another major as she is very motivated. In the next round, they have to play Germany, which advanced without its two top players, Angie Kerber and Julia Goerges. We would think that against the Czechs, who have been very strong for years, the Germans will be challenged. It should be a terrific contest.

Germany d. Belgium 3-2
It came to the very end, and the Germans with the longtime veterans Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Tatjana Maria overcame Lidziya Marozava and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4. As Groenefeld said, “We just kept going. … For me this is the best win for my country.” But the Germans will need to bring their best to deal with the Czech Republic.

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