MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Two Fed Cup by BNP Paribas giants will meet at the Sports Palace Megasport in Moscow this weekend when Russia hosts Italy in the semifinals of the biggest women’s team competition in sport.
Italy is defending Fed Cup champion but it is up against a team which has dominated the event just as much over the course of the last decade. As well as its 2010 triumph, Italy also won in 2006 and 2009, victories which were book-ended by triumphs from Russia in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008. Now these two dominant forces will face off in a highly anticipated semifinal showdown.
Russian No. 1 player and current World No. 3 Vera Zvonareva will be hoping to set the tone for her team when she opens proceedings on Saturday against Italian No. 2 Sara Errani. Two-time grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova will then play Italian No. 1 Roberta Vinci in the reverse singles to round off day one.
What promises to be a big day on Sunday is scheduled to begin with Zvonareva against Vinci, followed by Kuznetsova and Errani before Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ekaterina Makarova take on Maria-Elena Camerin and Fed Cup rookie Alberta Brianti of Italy in what could turn out to be a crucial doubles rubber.
Sunday’s line-ups could change, however, as team captains Shamil Tarpischev (Russia) and Corrado Barazzutti (Italy) can change their player selections up to an hour before the first match starts and prior to any match thereafter.
The absence of Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone has robbed Italy of two of its biggest stars but Vinci said she was relishing the opportunity to shine. “We are ready to play. We are a good team,” said Vinci.
“I played my first Fed Cup match ten years ago so I have a lot of experience but I played a lot of doubles, not singles, so for me it is like a dream to lead the singles. I am the No. 1 in the team so I am excited and happy and I will try to do my best.”
For Russia, Zvonareva said that her team was not about to take the defending champions lightly, however much of its squad might appeared weakened by the absence of Pennetta and Schiavone. “Definitely it’s going to be a tough challenge for us because Italy proved to everyone that they are one of the best teams in the world for the last couple of years,” said Zvonareva.
“This is a huge game for us. Even though Francesca and Flavia are not here we still have to go out there and show our best tennis and if we don’t it’s going to be very tough for us. If there is anything I can do to help my team I will do it.”
The full draw is as follows:
R1: Vera Zvonareva (RUS) v Sara Errani (ITA)
R2: Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Roberta Vinci (ITA)
R3: Vera Zvonareva (RUS) v Roberta Vinci (ITA)
R4: Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Sara Errani (ITA)
R5: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova / Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Alberta Brianti / Maria-Elena Camerin (ITA)
Watch the tie live on: FedCup.tv
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) - 15/04/2011
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) - 15/04/2011
Elena Makarova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) - 15/04/2011
Captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA) - 15/04/2011
Roberta Vinci (ITA) - 15/04/2011
Sara Errani (ITA) - 15/04/2011