HYOGO, JAPAN – Japan's Misaki Doi will face off with Argentina's Maria Irigoyen in the opening singles match of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-off tie at the Bourbon Beans Dome on Saturday afternoon, following Friday morning's draw.
Japanese No. 1 Ayumi Morita will meet Argentinean No. 2 Mailen Auroux in the second singles match on the first day, while Sunday's reverse singles will see Morita take on Irigoyen and Doi challenge Auroux. Rika Fujiwara and Kurumi Nara are scheduled to play Irigoyen and Auroux in the doubles rubber.
The tie was originally scheduled for April, but moved in the wake of the March 11 disaster when Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.
"This is my first home tie," said Japan captain Takeshi Murakami. "This is a big chance for us. We will do our best."
Japan last hosted a Fed Cup tie in 2008, when it lost to France in Tokyo.
"This is our best team," Murakami stated. "The opponent is not important. We have to play for the Japanese people after the disaster.”
In addition to having the home edge, Japan also has veteran players on its squad, while the Argentina team is quite youthful.
"I'm worried about Morita because she has the experience my players don't," Argentina captain Bettina Fulco confessed.
At the draw, Argentina only nominated two of its four players (Irigoyen and Auroux) for the potential five matches in the tie, but this sounded like a tactical move by Fulco.
"We may very well change the line-up," she said. "It will all depend on how the first few matches go."
Argentina's hopes in the tie suffered a setback when the country's No.1 player, Gisela Dulko, was unable to make the trip.
The reigning Australian Open doubles champion was scheduled to be a part of the team when the tie was supposed to be contested in April, but when it was pushed back until July, complications arose.
"Gisela is getting married next week," Fulco said. "We wanted her to come but can certainly understand why she could not make it."
Auroux said the team would just have to deal the situation. "We are happy to be here and will do our best," she said.
Morita admitted that she knew little about the opposition. "I don't know their players," she said. "I will just concentrate to do my best."
Doi, the left-hander who made the third round at Wimbledon this year, is more focused on herself. "Whoever the opponent is isn't the point," she noted. "The important factor is how I play."
Fujiwara, a doubles specialist and 10-year veteran of Fed Cup play, remained cautious. "We have the advantage of being at home," she pointed out. "But you never know in the Fed Cup because the visiting nation always tries very hard."
Japan has been in the midst of a heat wave for the past several weeks, but Murakami said the weather was not an issue. "Weather or humidity doesn't matter," he commented. "The players are used to playing all over the world. We are in perfect condition."
Japan defeated Uzbekistan in the Asia/Oceania Zone Group I promotional play-off in February in Thailand to earn the home tie, while Argentina advanced after defeating Colombia in the Americas Zone.
The all-time series is even at 3-3, but Argentina has won the last three meetings between the two nations. The winner of the tie will be promoted to World Group II in 2012 along with Belarus, Slovenia and Switzerland.
The full draw is below.
R1: Misaki Doi (JPN) v Maria Irigoyen (ARG)
R2: Ayumi Morita (JPN) v Mailen Auroux (ARG)
R3: Ayumi Morita (JPN) v Maria Irigoyen (ARG)
R4: Misaki Doi (JPN) v Mailen Auroux (ARG)
R5: Rika Fujiwara / Kurumi Nara (JPN) v Mailen Auroux / Maria Irigoyen (ARG)