Netherlands vs Belarus Fed Cup tennis live streaming, preview and predictions

Hannah Wilks:

The clash between top-15 Kiki Bertens and Aryna Sabalenka will be pivotal in deciding which nation makes it to the inaugural Fed Cup Finals, with Belarus and the Netherlands tied 1-1 going into day two.

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Netherlands vs Belarus is live from The Hague on Saturday 8 February from 1pm local/12pm GMT

Tie details

Location: The Hague, Netherlands

Venue: Sportcampus Zuiderpark

Surface: Clay (indoors)

The Netherlands: Kiki Bertens, Arantxa Rus, Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove, Indy de Vroome, Demi Schuurs, Paul Haarhuis (captain)

Belarus: Aryna Sabalenka, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Olga Govortsova, Lidziya Marozava, Anna Kubareva, Tatiana Poutchek (captain)

Netherlands vs Belarus: The draw

Friday 7 February:
Rubber 1: Kiki Bertens (NED) d. Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR), 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-1
Rubber 2: Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) d. Arantxa Rus (BLR), 6-2, 6-3

Saturday 8 February:
Rubber 3: Kiki Bertens (NED) vs Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
Rubber 4: Arantxa Rus (NED) vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR)
Rubber 5: Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove/Demi Schuurs (NED) vs Olga Govortsova/Lidziya Marozava (BLR)

NB: Player nominations can change until an hour before the start of play

Kiki Bertens (NED) vs Aryna Sabalenka (BLR), 1pm local/12pm GMT

The pick of not just this Fed Cup qualifying tie, but most of those going on around Europe on Saturday is the reverse-singles rubber between world no. 8 Kiki Bertens and world no. 13 Aryna Sabalenka.

With the Netherlands and Belarus poised at 1-1 after victories for Bertens and Sabalenka on day one, the outcome of this one will be pivotal when it comes to deciding which nation progresses to the inaugural Fed Cup Finals in April and which nation misses out.

While Sabalenka delivered a fairly comprehensive victory over Arantxa Rus, who recently broke into the top 100 but has never come near the heights reached by Sabalenka, Bertens had to work much harder on day one against a lower-ranked but more challenging opponent. Aliaksandra Sasnovich is currently ranked outside the top 100, but the Belarusian has been as high as world no. 30 and has scored five victories over top-10 players, including one of the two wins she has recorded over Bertens. Sasnovich broke early to lead 3-1 and although she was unable to hold on to that lead, she kept Bertens on the back foot throughout the first set with her aggressive groundstrokes and came from behind to dominate the tie-break and lead 7-6(5).

Aryna Sabalenka

Bertens was really frustrated, even tossing her racquet near the end of the first set, and it was an impressive effort from the Dutch player to turn things around, starting to spread the court much more effectively and play more proactively to dominate the second and third sets for a 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-1 victory.

Bertens said:

‘I was very relieved and happy. I think my reaction showed as much. I was incredibly nervous beforehand. The last time I was this nervous was two years ago.

‘This was not a match I played for myself. I played for the team, the girls, the Dutch public and Dutch tennis in general. There’s so much attached to it. I tried to shut it out, but that is easier said than done.’

Putting so much pressure on herself could make things even more difficult for Bertens against Sabalenka. The Dutch player won her first four matches against Sabalenka, including a 2017 Fed Cup thriller which saw Bertens come back from a set down to win 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4; but Sabalenka won their two most recent matches, beating Bertens in Wuhan last autumn and in the final of the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai. Bertens is favoured a little by the surface and has a stellar 18-2 Fed Cup singles record, but Sabalenka should be able to make her work very hard for this win.

Rubber 4: Arantxa Rus (NED) vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR)

Player nominations are unlikely to change for this one, with both Rus and Sasnovich the second-best singles player on their team.

Left-handed Rus has a 15-10 record in Fed Cup singles and 4-5 on clay, but has really had some good results over the past 12 months to break back into the top 100; she won no fewer than ten ITF titles in 2019, and although they were all small tournaments, that’s an awful lot of wins. Rus also reached the final of the ITF $60k in Andrezieux-Bouthon last week.

Aliaksandra Sasnovich

Sasnovich has taken a major hit in the rankings after failing to defend her 2019 run to the semifinals of the Apia International Sydney as a qualifier or her third-round finish at the Australian Open, losing in the first round of the main draw in Adelaide and in Melbourne, the latter in a tight clash to qualifier Greet Minnen. With a 16-10 win-loss record, Sasnovich is a decent Fed Cup player but this surface does not suit her at all – she is much better on quicker courts. But her deep groundstrokes should enable her to pressure Rus’s vulnerable serve and get the win.

Rubber 5: Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove/Demi Schuurs (NED) vs Olga Govortsova/Lidziya Marozava (BLR)

Should the tie go to a decisive doubles, which is not at all unlikely, expect changes of nominations on both sides.

Schuurs is a top-20 doubles player and a doubles specialist who has played with Kerkhove several times, but their only win together was over the Williams sisters (!) in a dead rubber; Bertens is a quality doubles player when she turns her hand to it, although she has rarely been called upon to play doubles for her team over the past few years, owning a 6-2 record in Fed Cup doubles with most of those wins coming alongside Michaella Krajicek.

On the Belarusian side, Sabalenka has an 0-4 doubles record in Fed Cup and it must be confessed she doesn’t seem like a natural at it – but then she has been up against some really tough teams, a higher class than any combination the Netherlands can field, in those rubbers. It would not be surprising to me to see Belarus field their top two singles players for the doubles as well in a bid to close out the tie.