The hard court surface in the Czech Republic’s tennis stronghold Brno is likely to be the home team’s main advantage in a delicately balanced Fed Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie against Germany. The Czechs, who have won four of their five Fed Cup meetings with Germany, came out on top 3-2 when the two sides last met in Mannheim in 1997 and the forthcoming weekend’s clash promises to be just as exciting.
Having reached last year’s semifinals after a 4-1 win over Spain only to be beaten 3-2 by the United States, the Czech Republic are looking to go one step further this time round and home crowd favourite Lucie Safarova believes it is not an impossible mission.
“I think we have a decent chance but we have to take it one step at a time and beat Germany first,” said Safarova, who is also looking forward to playing in front of friends and family in her hometown. “I am very excited and I know the fans can make a big difference in an evenly-balanced tie like this,” she added.
Petkovic names Czechs as favourites
Safarova, the world No. 46, will take on world No. 66 Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the opening singles rubber, after which the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova meets Germany’s rising star Andrea Petkovic. The Bosnian-born world No. 49 Petkovic will be making only her second Fed Cup appearance but her recent surge into the top 50 suggests she will be a tough nut to crack for 68th-ranked Kvitova.
“The Czechs are obviously the favourites because they will have 3,000 fans while we will only have a dozen, but we are a very good team and with our team spirit nothing is impossible,” Petkovic said. “We all want to achieve big things with Germany in the Fed Cup and this is a big chance. We have to keep working hard and hopefully we will be able to win the competition in the near future, if not this year,” she said.
Friday’s draw in the Brno City Hall, where its mayor called the city of 400,000 the Czech Republic’s “tennis capital”, as it has already staged several high-profile Fed Cup ties, also pitted Safarova against Petkovic and Kvitova against Groenefeld in Sunday’s reverse singles. The home team’s Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke, a 34-year-old veteran who is a doubles specialist, clash with Tatjana Malek and Kristina Barrois in the doubles on Sunday.
Rittner expects close contest
Lucie Safarova (CZE) v Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER)
Petra Kvitova (CZE) v Andrea Petkovic (GER)
“The rankings tell just how evenly-balanced this tie is going to be and the home court advantage, namely the fans and the home team’s right to choose the surface, may make all the difference in the end,” said Germany’s team captain Barbara Rittner.
Winners of the competition in 1987 and 1992, Germany also have high hopes of doing well this year, with the winners of this tie set to meet either defending champions Italy or Ukraine. The bottom half of the draw, where Serbia take on Russia and France play against the United States, appears to be somewhat tougher and Rittner is aware of Germany’s chance to pull off something special in this year’s competition should they win in Brno.
“We are here to win, we see our chance and we are really hopeful that we can reach the semifinals after a barren spell,” she said. “But we can’t think who is up next because we have to concentrate on one tie at a time. Our most immediate task is to play the best we can and beat the Czech Republic.”
Her opposite number Petr Pala acknowledged the tie is set to go right down the wire, adding that he hoped the home fans could swing the tie the Czech Republic’s way if the going gets tough. “It may come down to just a few points and I really hope the home fans here will be as passionate as they’ve always been,” he said. “The girls love playing here and they love to compete, they always raise their game for this competition and I am confident they will be able to once again.”
Saturday - Play starts at 13:00 (12:00 GMT)
Sunday - Play starts at 12:00 (11:00 GMT)
Lucie Safarova (CZE) v Andrea Petkovic (GER)
Petra Kvitova (CZE) v Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER)
Lucie Hradecka/Kveta Peschke (CZE) v Kristina Barrois/Tatjana Malek (GER)