Photo: Golovanov/KivrinAna Ivanovic (SRB)
The draws for the weekends Fed Cup by BNP Paribas action took place on Friday with a total of 10 ties being played in the semifinals, World Group play-offs and World Group II play-offs.
Lucie Safarova and Francesca Schiavone will open the semifinal action on Saturday as Czech Republic and Italy compete for a place in the Final in November. Petr Pala's Czech team are playing at home for the first time in over two years and will be welcomed back as champions having won the title last year.
Italy, however, will be no push-overs as the 2010 champions can boast four players all with impressive pedigrees in the competition and it is testament to Sara Errani's current form that she has been selected to take on Petra Kvitova in the second match on Saturday. The Italian No.4 took the title in Barcelona last week and that will no doubt have had an impact on Corrado Barazzutti's decision.
The other semifinal will two very evenly matched nations go head-to-head for the fourth time, with Russia having beaten Serbia in all the previous meetings. Jelena Jankovic will have the task of trying to put the visitors ahead in Moscow when she takes on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first rubber.
Later in the day it will be Svetlana Kuznetsova, chosen ahead of Maria Kirilenko, facing off against Ana Ivanovic. The two-time Grand Slam champion has slid down the rankings to No.27 but will enjoy playing in front of a home crowd and could be considered a slight favourite even against the higher-ranked Serbian.
Serena Williams will be the headline act in the World Group play-offs as USA bid for an immediate return to the highest level of Fed Cup competition against Ukraine in Kharkiv. She will face the relatively unknown 17-year-old Elina Svitolina, making her debut in the competition, after Christina McHale and Lesia Tsurenko open proceedings.
Belgium are missing their big names stars when they face Japan in Tokyo, leaving Alison van Uytvanck to take on Ayumi Morita as the No.2 for the weekend in the first rubber. Veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm will then take on Tamaryn Hendler who is 22-years her junior.
Dominika Cibulkova and Lourdes Dominguez-Lino play first in Marbella as Spain take on Slovak Republic also bidding to avoid the drop into World Group II. The Slovak side won the only previous meeting in the 2002 Final and Daniela Hantuchova will look to put them in a commanding position this time around when she takes on Silvia Soler-Espinosa in the other singles rubber of the day.
The final World Group play-off is taking place in Germany where Andrea Petkovic will have to wait until Sunday to make her return from injury as Angelique Kerber and Julia Goerges have been nominated for Saturday's action. They will take on Samantha Stosur and Jarmila Gajdosova respectively as Australia travel to Stuttgart looking to return to the World Group having been relegated in 2011.
Click the links below a full report from each of the ties.
World Group semifinals
- Russia v Serbia
- Czech Republic v Italy
World Group play-offs
- Ukraine v USA
- Japan v Belgium
- Spain v Slovak Republic
- Germany v Australia
World Group II play-offs
- France v Slovenia
- Switzerland v Belarus
- Sweden v Great Britain
- Argentina v China