The Fed Cup is coming to Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena on Friday and Saturday, when the U.S. takes on Latvia in international women’s tennis action. But what exactly is the Fed Cup? Here’s a primer to answer all your questions about the event:
What is the Fed Cup?
The Fed Cup is the premier international team competition in women’s tennis. National teams are formed and play one another to crown a world champion. It’s first iteration was in 1963, and this year a total of 115 nations are involved, either in playing for this year’s title or in determining seeding for next year’s competition. The Fed Cup is to women’s tennis what the Davis Cup is to men’s tennis.
What is the competition format?
The Fed Cup has a new format this year. In past years, the top eight nations in the world competed in a standard elimination bracket to determine the champion, with each head-to-head competition — referred to as a tie — taking place at a separate venue on differing dates. But the new format allows more countries to have a chance at the title, and it condenses the final rounds to create more of a World Cup atmosphere.
This weekend eight Fed Cup Qualifiers take place around the world, with the U.S. versus Latvia being one of them — the other seven are Belarus at Netherlands, Russia at Romania, Germany at Brazil, Japan at Spain, Canada at Switzerland, Kazakhstan at Belgium and Great Britain at Slovakia. The winners of the qualifiers advance to the Fed Cup Finals, which take place April 14-19 in Budapest, Hungary. At the finals the eight qualifiers join last year’s champion France, last year’s runner-up Australia, host Hungary and wild-card entrant Czech Republic in a 12-team tournament, where four three-team pools will play round-robin to determine semifinalists. Then the semifinalists play off to determine the champion.
Who is playing this weekend?
Sometimes countries aren’t able to get their best players to commit to international competition. But the U.S. and Latvia are trotting out the best they have to offer.
The U.S., which has won the Fed Cup a record 18 times and is the top seed of the qualifiers, is fielding something of a dream team. It begins with all-time great Serena Williams, winner of 23 grand slams and ranked No. 9 in the world. Right with her is Sofia Kenin, who just won the Australian Open and zoomed up to No. 7. The other members of the team are No. 18 Alison Riske, 15-year-old sensation and No. 51 Coco Gauff, and doubles specialist Bethanie Mattek-Sands (No. 20 in doubles).
Serena. Coco. Sofia. Alison. Bethanie.
— USTA (@usta) January 28, 2020
Latvia will no doubt lean heavily on its two big guns, 40th-ranked and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and 41st-ranked Anastasija Sevastova. The other two members of the Latvian team are Diana Marcinkevica (No. 255) and Daniela Vismane (No. 502).
How will this weekend’s matchup be decided?
The tie, which is being played on hardcourt, is a best-of-five, featuring four singles matches and one doubles match. The matches are all best-of-three sets.
Each team designates two singles players, with two singles matches being played Friday. On Saturday those singles players switch opponents to play the third and fourth singles matches. The tie concludes with the doubles match. If one team wins the first three singles matches to clinch the tie, then the fourth singles match won’t be played, but the doubles match will still be contested. If the tie is clinched in the fourth singles match, then the doubles match will not be contested.
The format tends to allow for a maximum of four players, and countries have the option of using just two players should they choose to use their singles players in doubles. With the U.S. having five on its roster it will be interesting to see how U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi deploys her players. Substitutions can be made on the second day, which allows for the possibility of all five players taking part.
The draw to determine the matchups in singles and doubles takes place at noon Thursday at Angel of the Winds Arena.
When do the matches get started?
Friday’s matches begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday’s action starts at 3:30 p.m.
Are tickets still available?
As of Thursday afternoon the Angel of the Winds website had a smattering of ADA tickets available in the upper bowl for Friday. Saturday is sold out.
Are the matches being televised?
The U.S. vs. Latvia is being broadcast by the Tennis Channel. The tie is also being streamed online on the Fed Cup website.