Russia has named an ominously strong team to face Italy in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinals, being played in Moscow on 16-17 April.
World No. 3 Vera Zvonareva heads up the Russian challenge alongside Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ekaterina Makarova. All four players are currently ranked inside the Top 40.
Zvonareva, twice a Fed Cup winner, is making her first appearance for Russia since playing in the title-winning team of 2008. She finished runner-up at both the US Open and Wimbledon last year.
Kuznetsova, who has lifted the Fed Cup trophy on three occasions, is a former US Open and Roland Garros champion, while Pavlyuchenkova and Makarova add considerable depth to the home side.
The Italian team is yet to be announced, although Francesca Schiavone is expected to miss out to concentrate on her Roland Garros title defence. Italy is chasing a third successive Fed Cup crown.
The other semifinal sees Belgium take on Czech Republic in Charleroi. Kim Clijsters is injured so the Belgians will be relying on Yanina Wickmayer to lead the fight, while the Czechs have already named a full strength line-up of Petra Kvitova, Lucie Safarova, Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
The deadline for official team nominations is on 6 April.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) - 05/04/2011