HYOGO, JAPAN: The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II tie between Japan and Slovenia will kick off with Japan's No. 2 Kimiko Date-Krumm facing Slovenia's No. 1 Polona Hercog at the Bourbon Beans Dome in Kobe on Saturday.
The second match will pit Ayumi Morita against Fed Cup debutant Nastja Kolar. Sunday’s reverse singles will start with Morita facing Hercog, followed by Date-Krumm against Kolar. In the doubles, Morita will team up with Rika Fujiwara with the Japanese pair going up against Hercog and Andreja Klepac.
The draw at the ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel in Kobe was presided over by referee Pam Whytcross. She was joined by Hyogo Prefecture Governor Toshizo Ido, Japan Tennis Association Vice President Koji Tanaka, ITF Honorary Vice President Eichi Kawatei, BNP Paribas Communications Manager Daniel Boyd and Marko Umberger, President of the Slovenia Tennis Association.
Japan and Slovenia have played each other twice before – in 1999 and 2010 – and both were World Group II play-off ties. Japan edged Slovenia 2-1 in 1999, but lost 4-1 two years ago in Maribor, which provided Slovenia with their biggest margin of victory in Fed Cup.
Slovenia were promoted to World Group II in 2010 and held on to their status with a tense 3-2 win over Canada last year, but they will have to face Japan without Katarina Srebotnik, who misses the trip to Japan due to an injury she picked up at the Australian Open.
Srebotnik scored decisive victories over Date-Krumm and Morita in 2010 and her absence could be a big blow for the Slovenians. In the same tie, Hercog overcame Morita, but the Japanese player took the match to three sets, eventually falling 36 61 63. Hercog defeated Date-Krumm 64 62.
“It’s different this time,” Hercog told the media at the draw on Friday. “The surface is different and we are not going to have as many supporters. But we’ll stick together as a team and keep believing in ourselves. Everything is possible.”
Japan gained promotion back to World Group II last season after a two-year absence, thanks in part to a strong performance by Morita in a play-off tie against Argentina, also at the Bourbon Beans Dome.
The Japan team is ranked 12th, while Slovenia is 16th.
But the highest-ranked player on show at the Bourbon Beans Dome will be world No. 36 Hercog, and with Kolar making her debut for the team, Slovenia’s No. 1 will need to get a hot start against the 78th-ranked Date-Krumm. Date-Krumm prefers warm conditions, so the chilly Bourbon Beans Dome might give her European opponent a slight advantage.
In her favour, Date-Krumm is a “local” girl, having been born in nearby Kyoto and attending high school in Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture. Japan’s fourth player, Kurumi Nara, is also from Hyogo Prefecture.
Date-Krumm may not like the cold conditions blowing across Japan at present, but she does have a good record in Fed Cup, with arguably her greatest ever victory coming in the competition when she defeated Steffi Graff 76 36 1210 in Tokyo in 1996. The 41-year-old is likely to have too much experience for 17-year-old Kolar, who is currently ranked No. 251 in the world.
If the match comes down to the doubles, both teams have experienced players to call on Rika Fujiwara has won 24 ITF doubles titles, while Andreja Klepac has 11 to her name.
The full draw is listed below.
R1: Date-Krumm (JPN) v Hercog (SLO)
R2: Morita (JPN) v Kolar (SLO)
R3: Morita (JPN) v Hercog (SLO)
R4: Date-Krumm (JPN) v Kolar (SLO)
R5: Fujiwara / Morita (JPN) v Hercog / Klepac (SLO)