TALLINN, ESTONIA: Spain will start the process of trying to get back among the tennis elite on Saturday as it aims to return to the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group to challenge for the trophy it has won four times.
Spain is faced with a favourable draw but one that could throw up a few surprises if the Spanish don’t play to their full capacity – Estonia, with Kaia Kanepi, the world No. 17, is not to be taken lightly at the Tere Tennis Club in Tallinn.
Today’s draw, which took place at the Hotel Olümpia, closely linked with sport since it was constructed for the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980, saw Anett Kontaveit (an unranked 15-year-old) and Maria Jose Martinez (No. 28 in the world) facing off for the first point in the tie. Kanepi will then take on Carla Suarez, ranked No. 66, in the second rubber on day one.
Sunday sees Kanepi play Martinez in the battle between the number one players from each team followed by Kontaveit against Suarez. The day will finish with the decisive doubles between Kanepi and Maret Ani (No. 527) from the host nation and Anabel Medina (No. 81) and Nuria Llagostera (No. 128) for the visitors.
“If I think about the potential on both sides, I believe that we have more options and I hope that it will serve to help us achieve our goal of reaching the play-offs,” said Miguel Margets, the Spanish captain who underlined the “hard work” that the players had been putting in to ensure promotion to the World Group.
“We want to reach the play-offs because we want to be in the top tier,” reiterated Martinez, who will draw on all of her experience to take out the young Kontaveit. “We have to go in with nothing to lose and remain focussed until the last point.”
The Spanish team is looking to shake off the flu. Even though the temperatures aren’t as low as when Estonia made its World Group II debut last year – when Argentina had to contend with -17 degrees – the highs in the Estonian capital have been at a balmy 2 degrees and Medina and Llagostera have been suffering due to the cold. Fortunately for the visitors, both have recovered, much to the delight of Margets, and will play the doubles.
The Spanish don’t envisage the indoor hard court being a problem, despite it being the favourite of Kanepi: “It’s a surface that is much more playable than that which we have had in other ties as the visiting side,” said Margets.
“The court looks fine to us,” added Martinez.
One fact to brighten up the mood of the visitors is that Suarez, who is playing the No. 1 Estonian tomorrow, has won all three of her matches as a visitor on an indoor court in Fed Cup.
Kanepi an unknown quantity
The hopes of the home team essentially sit on the shoulders of the powerful Kanepi. After reaching the quarterfinals at the US Open in 2010, she has only played nine matches, after falling victim to injury.
Despite the fact that Kanepi herself said she was “ready”, Margets said: “From what I saw in Australia, I don’t think she is back to her best yet.”
Neither is the perennial Estonian No. 2, Maret Ani, in her best form. Problems with her right wrist and left knee have kept her away from the courts in recent months, which is why the Estonian captain Andrei Luzgin to take the risky decision of handing a Fed Cup debut to the up-and-coming Estonian talent Kontaveit.
“I’m very excited to be playing,” said the teenager, who is still a junior. “I aim to play aggressive and head in to the net.” She has just won the title at Tallinn ($10,000) – her first Futures event.
The full draw is listed below.
R1: Anett Kontaveit (EST) v Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (ESP)
R2: Kaia Kanepi (EST) v Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
R3: Kaia Kanepi (EST) v Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (ESP)
R4: Anett Kontaveit (EST) v Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
R5: Maret Ani / Kaia Kanepi (EST) v Nuria Llagostera Vives / Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP)
Kaia Kanepi (EST) - 04/02/2011
Anett Kontaveit (EST) - 04/02/2011
Captain Miguel Margets (ESP) - 04/02/2011
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (ESP) - 04/02/2011