BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: Argentina will be hot favourites to win promotion back to World Group II when they take on an inexperienced Chinese line-up in their play-off tie.
Despite the absence of Gisela Dulko, Paula Ormaechea has recently taken over the Argentine No. 1 and is leading the team. Furthermore, Ormaechea and Florencia Molinero enjoy a big ranking advantage over their singles opponents on Saturday.
The 19-year-old Ormaechea will open up against Zhou Yi-Miao, the only Chinese player to have contested a Fed Cup tie previously, before Molinero takes on Wang Qiang, who is her country's top-ranked player this weekend.
Although they might not suggest it, the Argentine team is aware that in Fed Cup, just as in Davis Cup, an advantage in the rankings does not always guarantee a victory.
“Well, if you take a look at the rankings we can say that Argentina are the favourites, but once you step on the court it is a different story. We’re preparing the team the best way possible,” said Bettina Fulco, the Argentine captain, after the draw ceremony that took place at the NH City Hotel, just a few metres away from The Pink House, the national government traditional building.
“I wanted to give credit to the team that won the Americas Zone Group,” explained Fulco regarding the absence of world No. 127 Dulko in the Argentine team. However, the loss for the visitors seems to be much more relevant, as they can’t count on Top 10 Na Li, Shuai Peng and Jie Zheng, the last two players among the World’s Top 35 players."
Indeed, this establishes a big gap between the home team and China in terms of experience. On one hand, China has brought only one player who has played just one Fed Cup tie before. On the other hand, only Ormaechea herself has played seven times for Argentina and the team combined has played in 33 Fed Cup ties, including Americas Group I encounters.
“We will give our best and try to learn how to play on clay courts. I don’t think we have any pressure, it is an honour for us to play for our country,” reflected China’s captain Zhong Fu.
Going back a couple of months, Argentina won the chance to fight for a place in next year’s World Group by storming through the Americas Group I last February in Curitiba, Brazil. The Argentine team beat Bahamas, Canada, Peru and Colombia on their way, only giving one set away during the tournament.
At the very same time, China captured their spot by winning over Chinise Taipei, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in the Asia/Oceania Group I as the host team, in Shenzhen.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Paula Ormaechea (ARG) v Zhou Yi-Miao (CHN)
R2: Florencia Molinero (ARG) v Wang Qiang (CHN)
R3: Paula Ormaechea (ARG) v Wang Qiang (CHN)
R4: Florencia Molinero (ARG) v Zhou Yi-Miao (CHN)
R5: Mailen Auroux/Maria Irigoyen (ARG) v Liang Chen/Liu Wan-Ting (CHN)
Follow this tie with live scoring:
Captain Bettina Fulco (ARG) - 20/04/2012
Florencia Molinero (ARG) - 20/04/2012
Paula Ormaechea (ARG) - 20/04/2012