QUEBEC CITY, CANADA: Canada has an opportunity this weekend to go further than ever before in Fed Cup by BNP Paribas competition. The Slovak Republic looks to remain in the World Group for 2015.
One team will be celebrating come Sunday, and for Canada a win in their World Group play-off tie would mark the country's first ever World Group qualification next year.
The draw for the tie against the Slovak Republic was held Friday and Canada No. 2 Aleksandra Wozniak's name came up, setting up the first rubber against Slovak No. 1 Jana Cepelova on Saturday.
Eugenie Bouchard, Canada's No. 1, will face Kristina Kucova in the second rubber Saturday. Bouchard only recently became aware that Canada has never qualified for the World Group.
"For Canada to be in the top eight of all the countries in the world in tennis would be something cool," said Bouchard, who reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
Bouchard, who is ranked No. 19 in the world, declined photographers' pleas for her to shake hands with Kucova after the draw was completed.
She was dominant in winning both of her rubbers in Canada's previous tie in February, a World Group II win against Serbia in Montreal. Wozniak set the tone for the home side in the opening rubber, battling back from an early deficit to defeat Serbia No. 1 Vesna Dolonc, 75 26 64.
Canadian captain Sylvain Bruneau spoke of the "intangibles" that led him to select the 153rd-ranked Wozniak as the team's No. 2 singles player against the Slovak Republic instead of Sharon Fichman, who is ranked 89th.
"Aleksandra has won tournaments, she has reached the finals of tournaments, she has gone far, she has played against all the big names with some big wins, so those are some of the things that she has going for her right now that can influence the decision because Sharon is playing really well," Bruneau said.
"She is playing really, really good tennis. She is (ranked) 89th, but she is going to continue to climb in the rankings."
Cepelova, who is ranked 51st, will head up a young Slovak Republic team that is missing 10th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova as well as Daniela Hantuchova, who is ranked 30th.
"It's a little bit disappointing for our team but we are here now," Cepelova said.
Slovak captain Matej Liptak acknowledged that the absence of his top two players is a challenge, one that he hopes will see Cepelova and Kucova rise to the occasion.
"They played all the matches the last five years so it's a little bit tough for us now, but we have a new generation coming on the team," Liptak said. "I hope that they will show the maximum of them."
Cepelova welcomes the opportunity to lead her teammates, and she will consult with them for advice in facing Wozniak, who she has never faced.
"I don't know so much, I have never played against her but the captain and the other players know her and we'll talk about her and try to get some good tactics for her," Cepelova said. "We are a young team and we don't have a lot of experience like Canada, but we will try to win."
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) v Jana Cepelova (SVK)
R2: Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) v Kristina Kucova (SVK)
R3: Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) v Jana Cepelova (SVK)
R4: Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) v Kristina Kucova (SVK)
R5: Sharon Fichman/Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) v Jana Cepelova/Janette Husarova (SVK)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Jana Cepelova (SVK) - 18/04/2014
Captain Sylvain Bruneau (CAN) - 18/04/2014
Captain Matej Liptak (SVK) - 18/04/2014
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) - 18/04/2014