The ITF has announced the official team nominations for the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final, which sees Russia take on Czech Republic at Moscow’s Olympic Stadium on 5-6 November.
Elena Vesnina - replacing Vera Zvonareva
Shamil Tarpischev (captain)
Petr Pala (captain)
Zvonareva leads experienced Russians
Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev has selected the core of the team that recorded a 5-0 win over defending champions Italy in the semifinals, led by world No. 6 Vera Zvonareva.
Zvonareva, who finished runner-up at both the US Open and Wimbledon in 2010, once again lines up with Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while Maria Kirilenko comes into the side at the expense of Ekaterina Makarova.
Zvonareva and Kuznetsova are both former Fed Cup winners and bring a wealth of experience to the team, while Pavlyuchenkova and Kirilenko will be making their first appearance in a Fed Cup Final.
One of Tarpischev’s biggest decisions will be who to pick alongside Zvonareva in the second singles position, whether to go for the experience of Kuznetsova, ranked No. 19, or the youth of Pavlyuchenkova, ranked No. 15.
Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion, is the more established of the pair, but Pavlyuchenkova is an exciting young player and has remained unbeaten in Fed Cup play this season.
The Russian captain will also need to decide which two players to put together for what could be a crucial fifth rubber on Sunday. The most likely duo would be Kuznetsova and Pavlyuchenkova, who successfully teamed up in the first round earlier this year.
Zvonareva hasn't played a Fed Cup doubles match since 2004, while Kirilenko's only doubles appearance was in 2006 with Dinara Safina, although the pair did record an impressive win against Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin on that occasion.
Please note: Vera Zvonareva has since withdrawn from the tie through injury.
Kvitova carries Czech hopes
Czech captain Petr Pala has named a changed side to the one that defeated Belgium 3-2 in the semifinals. Petra Kvitova still leads the team, but Lucie Safarova returns from injury alongside Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke.
Kvitova, currently ranked at a career high of No. 3, has enjoyed her best year to date, highlighted by winning five titles, including her maiden Grand Slam triumph at Wimbledon in July. The 21-year-old left-hander is also undefeated in this year’s Fed Cup campaign.
Safarova, another leftie, provides support as the second singles player, having overcome the thigh problem that kept her out of the semifinals in April. The world No. 24 did play in Czech Republic’s first round victory over neighbours Slovak Republic, when she claimed an important win against Daniela Hantuchova.
Like their Russian opponents, the Czechs don’t have an established doubles pair, although they do have a doubles specialist in their ranks in the form Peschke. The 36-year-old, ranked No. 2 in the world, and is the reigning Wimbledon champion, a title she won with regular partner Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia.
The Czechs are bidding to win the Fed Cup title for a sixth time, but it would be their first victory since 1988 when they lifted the trophy under the combined flag of Czechoslovakia.
The draw for the Final takes place on 4 November, the day before the action begins, when the two captains will name their singles and doubles line-ups for the tie.