Prague - Defending
champions the United States are targeting a record-extending 11th Fed
Cup victory when they face the Czech Republic in a Prague final set to
be missing key players.
Sloane Stephens, Serena Williams and Madison Keys are missing on the
US squad while a torn calf has ruled out Karolina Pliskova from the
Czech team and doubts linger over two-time Wimbledon champion Petra
US captain Kathy Rinaldi has called on world No 36 Danielle
Collins, 52nd-ranked Sofia Kenin and 63rd-ranked Alison Riske alongside
the Czech-born 15th-ranked doubles player Nicole Melichar.
All but Riske will make their Fed Cup debut on the hardcourt of
Prague's 15 000-capacity O2 Arena, which is sold out for Saturday and
"We're going to go out there one match at a time and really compete,"
said Rinaldi, who steered the USA to victory last year beating Belarus
in the final and the Czechs in the semi-final.
"Obviously these are two teams with the most history in the Fed Cup, the best record, so it's very exciting," she added.
Boasting 18 trophies, the USA is the most successful team in Fed Cup
history, with the Czech Republic second on the list with 10 including
five as the former Czechoslovakia.
The hosts are also second best in terms of head-to-head, winning only two of their previous 12 meetings against the Americans.
Led by Kvitova and Pliskova, the Czechs have won five of the last
seven editions including all three finals they have played on Prague's
With Pliskova sidelined, the focus is now on world No 7
Kvitova, although doubts linger after she skipped Wednesday's training
after grappling with a high temperature following a course of
antibiotics last week.
Czech captain Petr Pala insisted it did not mean Kvitova would not be fit to compete.
"Nothing seems to suggest she won't be ready at the weekend, and no one has yet conceded that she won't play," Pala told media.
Kvitova will join the world's top doubles pair of Barbora Krejcikova
and Katerina Siniakova, who is also ranked 31st for singles, and Barbora
Strycova, the world number 33.
Melichar, who speaks fluent Czech, said she was confident the US team would take the honours in the end.
"We have a great team, regardless what the social media says and what
it says on paper. I think we can do it," said Melichar, who was born in
the second Czech city of Brno but raised in the States.
"In sports any given Sunday anything can happen and all these girls
play unbelievably well," added the 25-year-old who said she acted as an
interpreter, Czech teacher and food adviser to the US team.
"I have tried to teach them a few words here and there and to
translate a few things. But no bad words - in fact they haven't even