NOVI SAD, SERBIA: What should have been a fairly easy task for Serbia in their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II tie against Canada is likely to become an uphill battle in Novi Sad’s SPENS Arena this weekend.
Missing its top players Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic through lack of fitness, Serbia’s hopes of advancing into the World Group play-offs now rest on the shoulders of 19-year old prospect Bojana Jovanovski, who has only three ties for her country under her belt.
One of those was a spectacular but futile win over Magdalena Rybarikova in Serbia’s 3-2 defeat by Slovakia which sent them crashing out of the top tier last year. Now that Serbia will be without both Jankovic and former French Open winner Ivanovic for the first time since 2000, when the Balkan country was still a part of the rump Yugoslavia comprising Serbia and Montenegro, a young and confident Canadian team has a real chance of breaking into the World Group for the first time since the competition was restructured in 1995.
Saturday’s opening singles rubber pitted Fed Cup by BNP Paribas debutants Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia and her counterpart Rebecca Marino, followed by an equally intriguing clash between world No. 54 Jovanovski and Aleksandra Wozniak, who has an impressive 27-6 singles record for Canada in the lower tiers of the competition.
Jovanovski plays Marino and Krunic takes on Wozniak in Sunday’s reverse singles, followed by the doubles in which Serbia’s Ana Jovanovic and Tamara Curovic have been nominated against Sharon Fichman and Marie-Eve Pelletier.
“It’s a bit of a break for us with Jankovic and Ivanovic out, but the tie is still being played in Serbia and they have a home court advantage as well as an upcoming player in Bojana Jovanovski,” Canada team captain Sylvain Bruneau said.
“I don’t think it makes us the favourites to win although it’s a different tie now, there is a lot at stake and we will try to do everything we can to win it. We know that they are going to do the same,” he added.
Jovanovski, who stretched Russia’s world No. 3 Vera Zvonareva to the limit at last month’s Australian Open before bowing out to her more resourceful rival in the second round, was confident she could handle the pressure in what she described as a crucial tie for Serbia in the team’s bid to climb back into the World Group.
“This is the first time I am the number one player for Serbia because Ana and Jelena are not here and it’s a completely new experience for me,” she said. “The pressure is going to be huge because everybody expects me to win both my singles but I will be relaxed out there because the Canadians are now the favourites to win the tie. On the other hand, the Australian Open experience and good performances prior to the season’s opening grand slam event have given me a new level of confidence.”
“I was so scared when I made my Fed Cup debut but it’s going to be much easier now. I am more concerned that it could get difficult for Aleksandra Krunic because it’s her first time, but I think she can win at least one of her singles and that might be crucial for the outcome,” Jovanovski added.
Having thrashed Argentina 5-0 in last year’s play-off to set up what should be a mouth-watering tie with Serbia in the country’s picturesque second-biggest city of Novi Sad, staging its first-ever Fed Cup tie, Canada is unlikely to be overawed in the SPENS Arena.
“It’s my seventh year on the team and I am really looking forward to representing my country again,” said Wozniak. “Overall we have a strong team and I am pretty confident Rebecca will do well on her debut. Serbia is still a good team and they will certainly have the crowd behind them, but we will be ready,” she added.
The full draw is listed below.
R1: Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) v Rebecca Marino (CAN)
R2: Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) v Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN)
R3: Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) v Rebecca Marino (CAN)
R4: Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) v Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN)
R5: Tamara Curovic / Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) v Sharon Fichman / Maria-Eve Pelletier (CAN)
Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) - 04/02/2011
Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) - 04/02/2011
Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) - 04/02/2011
Captain Sylvain Bruneau (CAN) - 04/02/2011
Rebecca Marino (CAN) - 04/02/2011
Captain Dejan Vranes (SRB) - 04/02/2011