When Italy takes on Czech Republic in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinals, it will be the first time the team has ever played at the Foro Italico stadium in Rome, and Francesca Schiavone is excited about the prospect.
“It was fantastic, my heart started to bmm, bmm, bmm [beat loudly],” said Schiavone, describing the moment she heard the tie would be played in Italy’s capital city.
“I have to control my emotion. It’s an honour, because it’s the first time, because of the chance to give big emotion. So, I really look forward to it.”
Italy favourite to progress
The Italians and Czechs have met on six previous occasions, with the score currently tied at 3-3. Italy, however, has won the last three meetings, and will be the favourite to continue that run later this month.
“I think it will be a tough match because when you arrive in the semifinals of Fed Cup it means you have good tennis players, have good heart,” said Schiavone.
Czech Republic produced a battling performance against Germany in the first round, as a 3-2 victory was sealed in the deciding doubles rubber. Despite Lucie Safarova, the world No. 40, being the nation’s highest ranked player, the team does possess significant strength in depth.
Difficult to defend title
Corrado Barazzutti, meanwhile, has had the luxury of naming a settled side in recent years, with Schiavone lining up alongside Flavia Pennetta, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci to provide a winning formula for the Italian captain.
Italy’s path to the semifinals came via a 4-1 triumph over Ukraine in Kharkiv. In 2009, the Italians defeated USA in the Final to be crowned champion for the second time, and Schiavone knows it will be difficult to defend the title.
“We are tennis players, we love to have the responsibility and pressure,” said Schiavone, who has now compiled a 21-14 win-loss record since making her debut in 2002.
“It’s time to play at home, big pressure, everyone wants us to win, and everyone wants to see that we fight like lions. I can say to them, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to win, but I’ll fight for sure’.
“We have to stay focussed, always fight like a team, and then for sure we have the chance to beat them.”