PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC: Ana Ivanovic will play Lucie Safarova in the opening rubber of the 2012 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final between Czech Republic and Serbia.
The draw for this year's showpiece event, which took place in the grand setting of Prague City Hall, also pitted Petra Kvitova and Jelena Jankovic against one another in the second singles rubber on Saturday.
Czech captain Petr Pala has nominated the established doubles duo of Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova in what could be a decisive fifth rubber once the reverse singles matches have finished on Sunday.
They are scheduled to play Bojana Jovanovski and Aleksandra Krunic, but Serbia's captain Dejan Vranes could make a last-minute change if he feels it would help his team win a first Fed Cup title.
"It’s an historical moment for Serbian women’s tennis," said Jankovic. "We are all excited to be here in Prague and to have this opportunity to win the title, which is our ultimate goal and we very much look forward to the competition."
Her opponent on Saturday, Kvitova spoke of feeling as if she was on the road to recovery after being laid low by Bronchitis in Istanbul. She also refuted any suggestion that the home team had to live up to the expectation of being the reigning champions.
"I don’t think that we have a pressure because we are the defending champions," she said. "I think it’s because we are playing at home, it’s a full stadium and 14,000 people will come to support us. I’m looking forward to the tie for every minute."
Saturday's opening rubber is a re-match of the encounter between Safarova and Ivanovic at Sydney earlier this year and the Czech won that clash to improve her overall win-loss record against the Serbian to 3-2.
Safarova said: "Ana is a great player, and Jelena as well, so both of the matches will be really tough, but that’s how it should be as this is the finals so I will try my best and try to get the two points."
Ivanovic on the other hand was looking forward to avenging her defeat in Australia. "It’s going to be a tough match – I had a tough loss against her in Sydney so hopefully I can play better and get revenge. In this final tie every point is going to be important so I’m going to try my best every point."
In his speech ahead of the draw ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti said: "This competition is the largest annual team competition for women in any sport and will be 50 years old next year. The players who fought to get this competition going in 1963, like Billie Jean King and Margaret Court, felt that tennis needed an international team competition for women.
"These women are apostles for the modern game. Long before there was a tour, long before there was equal prize money, long before tennis returned to the Olympic movement, Fed Cup gave women players a chance to compete in a global competition, wearing the colours of their nations proudly.
"Despite all the changes and improvements in women's tennis, this competition remains one of the most important in sport and almost every great woman player of the last 50 years has her name carved on this cup."
And whichever team wins this weekend will have an impact on the competition's honour roll. The hosts are looking to win their seventh Fed Cup title (having won five as Czechoslovakia), which would move them into joint-second with Australia.
Serbia, meanwhile, are bidding to win their first Fed Cup title having reached their first final here this year. Prior to 2012 Serbia had never even won a World Group tie - in a strange piece of symmetry their countrymen also won their first - and only - Davis Cup title in 2010 having never previously won a tie in the top tier.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Lucie Safarova (CZE) v Ana Ivanovic (SRB)
R2: Petra Kvitova (CZE) v Jelena Jankovic (SRB)
R3: Petra Kvitova (CZE) v Ana Ivanovic (SRB)
R4: Lucie Safarova (CZE) v Jelena Jankovic (SRB)
R5: AndreaHlavackova / Lucie Hradecka (CZE) v Bojana Jovanovski / Aleksandra Krunic (SRB)
Follow this tie with live scoring and live streaming:
Ana Ivanovic (SRB) - 02/11/2012
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) - 02/11/2012
Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) - 02/11/2012
Captain Dejan Vranes (SRB) - 02/11/2012
Petra Kvitova (CZE) - 02/11/2012
Lucie Safarova (CZE) - 02/11/2012
Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka (CZE) - 02/11/2012
Captain Petr Pala (CZE) - 02/11/2012