MOSCOW, RUSSIA: It seems strange that it’s been almost six years since Russia last played France in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, as at the turn of the millennium the two teams met each other six times in a row. However, much has changed since their last meeting in 2005, when the Russians managed to win the competition for the second time, with Dinara Safina being the sole survivor from that tie at Roland Garros.
The French are unable to call upon the likes of Amelie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce anymore, and will go into the tie as underdogs against a powerful Russian team, which contains two former world number ones. However, Alize Cornet says that the visitors will be treating this match as a ‘cup final’ and have nothing to lose.
‘Even when they don’t play on top, they are still a very good side and of course on paper we are not as strong as them, but this is Fed Cup, and you never know what might happen and if we try our best and play our best tennis we can win. Russia of course is a great team, but it will be like a final for us, because if we beat Russia, things will be much easier for us,’ said the 21-year-old.
Cornet will get proceedings underway when she takes on Svetlana Kuznetsova. The two players have met just once, in 2008 when the French women won in straight sets. However the Russian says she’ll be hoping for a different outcome, when the tie gets underway on Saturday.
‘I don’t really remember that much from that match and I was in really bad form when we played that game. It will be a tough match, but I am looking forward to showing my best game, and doing my best,’ said the world No. 23.
Maria Sharapova will play the second rubber of Saturday’s opening singles, against Virginie Razzano, in a repeat of their second round match at last month’s Australian Open, with the Russian coming out on top on that occasion in straight sets. This will be only the second time the world No. 13 has played for her country, and it will also be her long awaited debut on home soil, playing for Russia.
‘I think the experience I had in Israel is really going to help me. It was the first time I played for a team, and it was a completely different experience from anything I could have imagined, and my team mates were great’, said the 23-year-old.
It will be a tough ask for the French to beat a star studded Russian line-up, but for all their star names, none of the home side’s players managed to get past the fourth round at the Australian Open. However, the French will have fond memories of Moscow’s Olympic Stadium as they managed to win their last encounter on Russian soil, back in 2003, before going on to win the Fed Cup.
The full draw is listed below.
R1: Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Alize Cornet (FRA)
R2: Maria Sharapova (RUS) v Virgine Razzano (FRA)
R3: Maria Sharapova (RUS) v Alize Cornet (FRA)
R4: Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Virgine Razzano (FRA)
R5: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova / Dinara Safina (RUS) v Julie Coin / Pauline Parmentier (FRA)
Watch this tie live on: FedCup.tv
Alize Cornet (FRA) - 04/02/2011
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) - 04/02/2011
Dinara Safina (RUS) - 04/02/2011
Virginie Razzano (FRA) - 04/02/2011
Maria Sharapova (RUS) - 04/02/2011