TURIN, ITALY: Marin Cilic will open Croatia's visit to Turin against Italian No. 2 Fabio Fognini on Friday as the 2005 champions bid to get off to a good start in their hunt for a quarterfinal away to Canada or a home tie against Spain.
Fognini defeated Cilic in their first meeting at Tour-level in Monte Carlo in 2009 but has lost to the world No. 13, ranked 31 places above him, in their last two Tour meetings. That said, Fognini has a strong record in Davis Cup, having won nine of his 11 Davis Cup singles clashes.
Italian No. 1 Andreas Seppi will follow in Friday’s second rubber against Ivan Dodig. Both are fresh from successful performances at the Australian Open, with Dodig achieving a career-best third round finish and Seppi rising to a career-high No. 18 in the rankings after equalling his 4th round best at a major.
Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi have been nominated for Italy for Saturday’s doubles against Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic, with the pair making their debuts in a live Davis Cup doubles rubber.
Zeljko Krajan is keen to seal Croatia's third straight victory over Italy as soon as possible.
"Our plan is to get three wins," the Croatia captain said. "We have a chance in each match so the plan is to get the wins as soon as possible.
"That's the only plan we have. We don't want to change the history between the two teams, where we've won both matches."
The reverse singles pits Seppi up against Cilic in a rematch of their epic five-set match in the Australian Open.
"It's always very difficult against him," Seppi said. "We've had some great fights. I won the last match against him in Australia in five sets so hopefully I can do it again in Torino.
"It's always important when you play at home, to have the crowd behind you and sometimes they can help you, they can give you an extra push during the match. Hopefully the stadium will be full."
It's been 15 years since Italy progressed past the first round, when it finished runner-up to Sweden in 1998.
"I think it will be tough," Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti said. "We play against a very tough team, very tough players. We hope to win but we know it will be tough.
"We want to try to win the first round because it's been a long time. It will be a great success for us if we do so we're going to try hard. To play at home and with this crowd, I think it's something that can help us."
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Fabio Fognini (ITA) v Marin Cilic (CRO)
R2: Andreas Seppi (ITA) v Ivan Dodig (CRO)
R3: Simone Bolelli (ITA) & Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) v Mate Pavic (CRO) & Nikola Mektic (CRO)
R4: Andres Seppi (ITA) v Marin Cilic (CRO)
R5: Fabio Fognini (ITA) v Ivan Dodig (CRO)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA) - 31/01/2013
Marin Cilic (CRO) - 31/01/2013
Andreas Seppi (ITA) - 31/01/2013