BARCELONA, SPAIN: Carla Suarez Navarro will kick off Spain’s attempt to take Japan’s World Group place this weekend in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie.
The play-off tie gets underway on Saturday at Barcelona’s Real Club de Polo, with Suarez Navarro due to battle it out against Japanese left-hander Misaki Doi.
The Spanish No. 1 appears confident she and her team mates will pull the side through despite the absence of Lara Arruabarena, 21, who was forced to drop out on Thursday with glandular fever.
Suarez Navarro said: “We have been playing well all this week in practice. Doi is a great player and I am playing well. We need to win three points. It doesn’t matter if I lose; I have a good team and they will help.”
Second up tomorrow will be Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa, 25, against the Japanese No. 1 Ayumi Morita.
Morita impressed in Japan’s first round tie against Russia in February by triumphing in both her singles matches, although the team were unable to secure a win overall.
The 23-year-old however showed a modest approach to this weekend’s clash: “I don’t have much experience of playing Fed Cup so it is exciting to be here and to play against Spain who are a great team, especially on clay.”
Spanish captain Conchita Martinez said: “I feel confident that my players are prepared and have trained 100 per cent to play tomorrow. Japan has a good team and Japan is dangerous, but we have great players too and we are playing at home, and on clay, so hopefully we can take that advantage.”
Japan will no doubt put up a tough fight, with captain Takeshi Murakami doing his utmost to stop the team being relegated to World Group II.
Murakami said: “It is going to be a tough battle for us because Spain are very good on clay. The key moment is going to be in the first two singles and we’re looking forward to playing.
“Carla Suarez Navarro will be a very tough opponent because she is in good condition now. I remember her beating Venus Williams at the Australian Open and she has a good stroke and a good touch.”
On Sunday, Suarez Navarro will face Morita in the third rubber followed by the final singles match featuring Soler-Espinosa and Doi.
Anabel Medina Garrigues has replaced Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena, and will join 32-year-old Lourdes Dominguez Lino to make up Spain’s doubles team for the fifth rubber on Sunday, against Japan’s Morita and Fed Cup debutante Shuko Aoyama.
Of Garrigues’ late recruitment, Martinez said: “She was in Valencia practising, so that was no problem. In three or four hours she was here.”
She added: “If something else happens with another player we are well covered.”
Spain will be buoyed by their 3-1 win against Ukraine in Alicante in February – although the Spanish captain rubbished any suggestion that the team’s last Fed Cup success against Japan, in 1994, will bring any extra hope.
“It’s completely different – we are in 2013. It’s going to be very different. The tie was completely different. We just have to focus on trying to do our best, trying to play our tennis, going point by point, match by match.”
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) v Misaki Doi (JPN)
R2: Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) v Ayumi Morita (JPN)
R3: Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) v Ayumi Morita (JPN)
R4: Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) v Misaki Doi (JPN)
R5: Anabel Medina Garrigues/Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) v Shuko Aoyama/Ayumi Morita (JPN)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Takeshi Murakami (JPN) - 19/04/2013
Captain Conchita Martinez (ESP) - 19/04/2013
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) - 19/04/2013