The speculation and conjecture that accompany a Fed Cup or Davis Cup week mostly disappear once the draw ceremony is completed and the match-ups are determined.
The draw for the Canada – Netherlands World Group II first round will be done on Friday at the Maaspoort arena in Den Bosch where the best-of-five match tie begins Saturday at 1 p.m. (7 a.m. ET in Canada) with the opening singles.
It’s always tricky to make assumptions based on who practices with whom and when, but it appears Dutch captain Paul Haarhuis (above with Bibiane Schoofs) will go with his No. 1, Arantxa Rus (No. 129), and No. 150-ranked Richiel Hogenkamp, as the singles players.
Rus (above), 28, and the 26-year-old Hogenkamp are the most experienced players on the Dutch team and practiced together on Thursday afternoon.
As for Canada, it will very likely be No. 1 Bianca Andreescu (No. 70) and Francoise Abanda (No. 223) in singles. The other options for the second singles would be No. 209 Rebecca Marino or doubles ace Gabriela Dabrowski who ranks No. 445 in singles.
Andreescu, and especially Abanda, are more experienced in Fed Cup action and there’s a feeling that Abanda has the ability to rise to the occasion when she’s representing her country.
Two years ago in April, 2017, she defeated No. 31 Yulia Putintseva and No. 51 Yaroslava Shvedova as Canada beat Kazakhstan in a World Group II Playoff tie in Montreal.
A year ago in April when she was the Canadian No. 2 behind Genie Bouchard, Abanda famously took a tumble and hit her head while warming up just minutes before she was to play Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in a World Group II Playoff in Montreal. Andreescu was the last-minute replacement.
Canadian team coach, former world No. 3 Nathalie Tauziat (on right above with captain Heidi El Tabakh), has had her eye on the opposition this week and commented, “I know a few of them that I’ve watched play,” she said. “The three of them – Rus, Hogenkamp and Schoofs – I know their games a bit, and on clay as well. I’m not sure who’ll play. Rus is their No. 1 but they’re all pretty close in the rankings so you never know.
“We’ve watched their games and have come up with tactics depending on who we put on our team.”
She continued about the Dutch, “to start with, there’s a lefty among the three – Rus is left-handed. They don’t all play the same. Two of them, Rus and Schoofs, hit harder and take the ball early. Hogenkamp a little bit less. She has more variety. She’ll hit drop shots and she slices quite a bit on the backhand as well. Those are the kinds of things you have to pay attention to.”
In terms of head-to-heads, Rus has played neither Andreescu (above with strength and conditioning coach Clément Golliet) or Abanda while Hogenkamp is 1-1 (2018 matches) with Andreescu and 1-0 (a 2016 match in Mexico) against Abanda.
The players will be playing on a red-clay surface that was laid down over an existing basketball court. “There’s not much time,” Guus Van Berkel of the Dutch Tennis Federation said about the main challenge of putting in a clay court at the Maaspoort arena. “I think our grounds-man managed very well in three days. And it’s quite a small area to put in a 20 by 40 (metres) court with the stands and the crowd and the cameras. We’ve already done it three times – one Davis Cup in Group I against Finland and two Fed Cup ties – in this venue and we managed again.”
The clay – eight centimetres thick – is put down on top of a wood base.
The federation bought the clay from a Dutch company and it’s stored and can be re-used as it is being done this time after that Davis Cup tie against Finland in 2017.
Watering only takes place once a day in the evening.
Canada – Netherlands will be on Ziggo Sport television in the Netherlands and in Canada, starting on Saturday at 7 a.m. ET, on Sportsnet One with Caroline Cameron and Sharon Fichman handling the commentary.
It looks like first-time captain El Tabakh will be counting on her No. 1, Andreescu – the only top-100 player in the tie – to lead the way this weekend
ALL DRESSED UP
The 2019 Canadian Fed Cup team wore Collection Iris Setlakwe dresses to the official dinner on Thursday night at the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch.
Collection Iris Setlakwe was established in Montreal in 2001 and 90 per cent of her dresses are made in Montreal from fabrics imported from Europe.
Her goal has been to simplify the wardrobes of business women and to create collections where items mixed and matched with each other. Collection Iris Setlakwe unique pieces are designed and produced for each season.
There have been some significant moments involving Dutch and Canadian players in recent decades. Here are just a few:
1973: Tom Okker, known as the ‘Flying Dutchman,’ won the Rothman’s Canadian Open singles title at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club defeating Manuel Orantes of Spain 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in the final. (NOTE: In the doubles final Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall beat their Aussie compatriots Owen Davidson and John Newcombe 7-5, 7-6.)
Okker, now 74, also won the Canadian Open doubles title in 1978 with Wojtek Fibak of Poland at the new National Tennis Centre site at York University.
1990: It was a one-man show at the National Tennis Centre in Toronto as Grant Connell (left) of Vancouver won both his singles – over Mark Koevermans and Paul Haarhuis – as well as the doubles with Glenn Michibata over Haarhuis and Koevermans, to propel Canada to its first presence in the elite 16-nation Davis Cup World Group.
1995: Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, now 48, of the Netherlands, a former world No. 9, won the WTA event in Quebec City then known as the Bell Challenge and now as the Coupe Banque Nationale.
1999: On a Montreal night backed by a raucous hometown crowd, local boy Sébastien Lareau upset world No. 7 Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 in the second round of the du Maurier Open – a.k.a. the Canadian Open. Krajicek, the 1996 Wimbledon champion, had done better the previous year in Toronto when he reached the final before losing 7-6(3), 6-4 to a red-hot Patrick Rafter who wound up going on to win both Cincinnati and the US Open that year.
This picture is not supposed to look exceptional – it’s just that on Thursday we saw the sun after three days of gray, overcast weather in ’s-Hertogenbosch. It’s surprising what it does for lifting the spirits.
(Feature photo: Mauricio Paiz)