Swiss tennis ace Bencic pulls out of Fed Cup tie
Swiss tennis number one Belinda Bencic has pulled out of this weekend's Fed Cup semifinal in Lucerne with a back injury that will require the 19-year-old to rest for at least four weeks.
However defending champions the Czech Republic will have to make do without leading duo Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova.
With two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova struggling for form and Safarova sliding down the rankings as she grapples with the impact of a bacterial infection from last September, the Czechs will count on 18th-ranked Karolina Pliskova as they bid for a fifth title in six years.
Pliskova won both singles rubbers before teaming up with Barbora Strycova to overcome Romania 3-2 in February, and those two will be joined by 61st-ranked Denisa Allertova and veteran Lucie Hradecka, who is 10th in the doubles rankings.
The Swiss toppled a German team featuring Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in round one, but coach Heinz Guenthardt has opted against naming a replacement for the sidelined Bencic.
Without the world number 10, Switzerland could be forced to turn to Martina Hingis in singles as well as doubles to back up Timea Bacsinszky, with 129th-ranked Viktorija Golubic the only other alternative.
"Of course the absence of Belinda Bencic is a big loss, but my three players have the potential," said Guenthardt, in quotes carried by Swiss media.
"We could have called up other players but that wouldn't have made the team any stronger."
Switzerland are eyeing their first Fed Cup final since 1998 when Hingis, then at the peak of her powers, was part of the side that lost 3-2 to Spain.
The 35-year-old, still number one in the world in doubles, played her first full singles match since 2007 in last year's World Group play-off against Poland, losing twice, but she said she would step up again "if the circumstances require it".
Federer powers on
In men's tennis, Swiss ace Roger Federer rolled smoothly into the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals over Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday.
The 34-year-old third seed is only two and a half months removed from the surgery he underwent after tweaking his knee off court after a semifinal loss at the Australian Open.
Federer said that his second win in three days in the Principality has left him feeling that his fitness is approaching 100 percent.
"As long as I can go into a match feeling like I'm all right and not thinking about the knee, it's all good.
"Even if it would flare up and I couldn't play tomorrow, I have a lot of information out of this tournament. I'm getting closer to the peak in the sense of maximum movement against the best players on a tough surface.
"Everything that's going on right now at this tournament is great. I can rest for the next couple of weeks anyway.
"Even if I get a setback of a couple of days that the knee is not well, you rest it, take up training, take as much time as you need. I feel like I'm in a great place right now."
Swiss star and French Open champion Stan Wawrinka is also into the quarterfinals after putting away Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-2. He will face Rafael Nadal.