With Bianca Andreescu not fit to play, it’s former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard who has the task of upsetting world no. 5 Belinda Bencic on day one of the Fed Cup qualifying tie between Switzerland and Canada in Biel.
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Switzerland vs Canada is live from Biel on Friday 7 February from 2pm local/1pm GMT
Location: Biel, Switzerland
Venue: Swiss Tennis Arena
Surface: Hard (indoors)
Switzerland: Belinda Bencic, Jil Teichmann, Viktorija Golubic, Stefanie Voegele, Timea Bacsinszky, Heinz Guenthardt (captain)
Canada: Bianca Andreescu, Leylah Annie Fernandez, Eugenie Bouchard, Gabriela Dabrowski, Heidi el Tabakh (captain)
Switzerland vs Canada: The draw
Friday 7 February:
Rubber 1: Jil Teichmann (SUI) vs Leylah Annie Fernandez (CAN)
Rubber 2: Belinda Bencic (SUI) vs Eugenie Bouchard (CAN)
Saturday 8 February:
Rubber 3: Belinda Bencic (SUI) vs Leylah Annie Fernandez (CAN)
Rubber 4: Jil Teichmann (SUI) vs Eugenie Bouchard (CAN)
Rubber 5: Viktorija Golubic/Stefanie Voegele (SUI) vs Bianca Andreescu/Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN)
NB: Player nominations can change until an hour before the start of play
Jil Teichmann (SUI) vs Leylah Annie Fernandez (CAN), Friday 7 February, 2pm local/1pm GMT
In a youthful tie, it’s not 17-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada who will be playing her first Fed Cup singles rubber, but 22-year-old Jil Teichmann.
Fernandez, who is at a career-high ranking of world no. 185 currently, is actually Canada’s second-ranked singles player and faces Teichmann in the absence of world no. 6 Bianca Andreescu, who travelled with the Canadian team to Biel but sat out practice sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday and is clearly not recovered well enough from the knee injury that kept her out of the Australian Open to take to the court.
It’s a daunting situation for Fernandez, especially with Canada’s best chance of getting points on the board on day one coming in this rubber, as Switzerland’s top player, world no. 5 Belinda Bencic, takes the court in the second rubber. But it’s not an unfamiliar one: She took the court against Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic last year, and acquitted herself decently in a 4-6, 1-6 defeat.
Teichmann was a real breakthrough player of 2019, starting the year ranked world no. 148 and soon thereafter dropping out of the top 150, but winning her maiden WTA Tour title at the J&T Banka Prague Open in May; despite being ranked world no. 146 at the time, Teichmann came through qualifying and defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ekaterina Alexandrova and Karolina Muchova among others to win the International-level title.
The Swiss went on to win a second WTA Tour International title in Palermo, scoring a shock win over world no. 5 Kiki Bertens in the final, and started 2020 at world no. 68. But the left-hander is clearly much more comfortable on clay than on hard courts, the surface on which the tie is being played in Biel, and she is also on a three-match losing streak, having started the year with a win over world no. 1001 Valentina Ivanov but then suffered defeats to Julia Goerges, Heather Watson and Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Fernandez played her first pro season in 2019, winning an ITF $25k title in Gatineau and reaching the final of another in Waco as well as making the semifinals of an $100k in Vancouver, and has already impressed in 2020, breaking into the top 200 for the first time after successfully qualifying for the Australian Open, losing in the first round to Lauren Davis. But she has yet to win a set against a top-100 player in five attempts, and with a home crowd at her back, Teichmann should be able to make a winning Fed Cup singles debut.
Belinda Bencic (SUI) vs Eugenie Bouchard (CAN), to follow
Last time Bencic and Bouchard met, the Swiss player was ranked world no. 20 and the Canadian world no. 25. It was back in August 2015, and Bouchard’s career-high ranking of world no. 5, earned by an extraordinary breakthrough 2014 season highlighted by a run to the Wimbledon final, was already the best part of a year behind her.
Bencic’s victory over Bouchard was the first victory of an incredible run which took her past four top-10 players including Serena Williams to the Rogers Cup title in Bouchard’s native Canada. She would go on to break into the top 10 in 2016.
Both women would find their rankings plummeting over the next few years. But only one of them has rebounded. Bencic comes into this Fed Cup clash at a career-high world no. 5, after bouncing back from back and foot injuries with a brilliant 2019 season that saw her win titles in Dubai and Moscow, make the semifinals of the US Open and qualify for the WTA Finals for the first time.
Bouchard is currently ranked world no. 267, after a nightmare 8-18 season which saw her lose 13 consecutive matches between February and November.
There have been signs that Bouchard is rebounding a little: She made a WTA Tour quarterfinal to start her season in Auckland, beating Kirsten Flipkens and Caroline Garcia before losing to Amanda Anisimova, and made it through two rounds of qualifying at the Australian Open – but has lost her last two matches in straight sets to world no. 154 Martina Trevisan and world no. 299 Alexa Glatch.
It hasn’t been a brilliant start to the season for Bencic either: She lost in the quarterfinals of Adelaide to Danielle Collins and got just one game in the third round of the Australian Open against an inspired Anett Kontaveit. In both cases, she found herself really blown away by powerful opponents, and Bouchard is an aggressive ballstriker too – but not really explosive enough to simply blast past Bencic, which plays right into the Swiss counterpuncher’s hands. Both matches they played in 2015, their only meetings, went Bencic’s way, although admittedly Bouchard retired in Eastbourne trailing 4-6, 0-3 before Bencic won 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 in Toronto.
Bencic has a 9-4 record in Fed Cup singles to Bouchard’s 12-4, but the Canadian is playing her first tie since 2018 and just her second since 2015 in Biel. Bouchard is likely to enjoy being the underdog in this clash, but there have been no real indications that she is back to the kind of level at which she could really challenge Bencic.