MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Vera Zvonareva has been forced to withdraw from this year’s Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final between Russia and Czech Republic, with the announcement coming just an hour before Friday’s draw ceremony.
The world No. 7, who played a key role in Russia’s semifinal victory over defending champions Italy in April, is replaced by Elena Vesnina, who has been hitting with the team in Moscow all week in case her services are required.
Zvonareva indicated in a press conference on Wednesday that she has been struggling with a shoulder injury picked up at the Kremlin Cup a fortnight ago, and it appears this problem hasn’t cleared up in time for her to play.
The news will come as a blow to Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev, who is already without his top ranked player Maria Sharapova, although he does have a deep squad from which to select a replacement.
Vesnina, currently ranked No. 10 in the world in doubles, won’t be expected to play in the singles line-up, but her doubles expertise could be called upon should the Final come down to a deciding fifth rubber on Sunday.
Zvonareva's absence puts Czech Republic, led by world No. 2 Petra Kvitova, in a strong position to challenge for their first Fed Cup title since 1988, when they played under the combined flag of Czechoslovakia.
The draw for the Final is taking place on Friday at 12 noon in Moscow, and then the action gets under way at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday at 2pm.