MOSCOW, RUSSIA: It seems incredible that a country with Russia’s tennis resources, haven’t managed to win the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas since 2008. Maria Kirilenko has been given the opportunity to spearhead her country’s challenge at the first hurdle, as she takes on Kimiko Date-Krumm in what will be the first ever meeting between the two sides in this event.
The world No. 13 doesn’t have the greatest of Fed Cup records, losing both her matches in the competition, however she has been in fantastic form this season, losing just two matches and also winning her first tournament of the year in Pattaya.
Kirilenko has been one of the most improved players on the women’s tour over the last couple of years and up until last year; the Russian was renowned as a doubles specialist.
“I actually stopped playing doubles and decided to concentrate on my singles,” Kirilenko commented. “I think it was a logical decision because I feel that I am playing well in singles and if you play doubles, you lose so much energy so I want to focus all my efforts on trying to improve my singles game.”
Facing up against Kirilenko on Saturday will be the evergreen Date-Krumm, who at 42 years of age, is one of the oldest players ever to compete in the Fed Cup. The Japanese No. 2 has been playing in the competition since she was 18, making her debut in 1989 and understands that her country is the underdog against a strong Russian side. Though she knows anything is possible in a competition that is very special to her:
“I remember in 1996 against Germany we managed to win that tie which was a miracle. Steffi Graff was in the team and we managed to win 3-2,” said the Japanese veteran. “I was in the Japan side and I remember that triumph. We are playing Russia who have won the Fed Cup four times, so we know it will be very tough, but miracles can happen.”
The second rubber on Saturday will see Ekaterina Makarova play just her second singles match in this competition, as she takes on Ayumi Morita. This will be the first meeting between the pair, though the Russian has enjoyed a great start to the new season and is brimming with confidence after breaking into the world’s top 20.
Unlike Morita, who has played 30 Fed Cup matches, despite being just 22 years of age, Makarova is relatively inexperienced in this competition and her only singles match to date saw her lose in three sets to Bethanie Mattek-Sands in three sets in 2010.
Just under two years on, she will start as the favourite against her Japanese opponent, with 37 places separating the two in the world rankings. However the 24 year-old is wary of the challenge Morita will pose:
“She is a great tennis player as she plays at a very fast pace and is aggressive on court. I will try to play my best tennis, while playing at home always makes things easier. We have prepared well for this tie and I am sure that everything will be ok,” said Makarova.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Maria Kirilenko (RUS) v Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN)
R2: Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Ayumi Morita (JPN)
R3: Maria Kirilenko (RUS) v Ayumi Morita (JPN)
R4: Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN)
R5: Margarita Gasparyan/Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Misaki Doi/Ayumi Morita (JPN)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Ayumi Morita (JPN) - 08/02/2013
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) - 08/02/2013
Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) - 08/02/2013
Maria Kirilenko (RUS) - 08/02/2013