Photo: Martin SidorjakTeam Czech Republic
The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group and World Group II draws were held on Friday with the 2013 competition set for a number of blockbuster ties this weekend.
Russia takes on Japan for the first time in this event, with Maria Kirilenko due to feature in just her third Fed Cup singles rubber when she takes on 42-year-old Kimiko-Date Krumm in the opening rubber. The veteran Japenese player first took part in the competition in 1989, when she made her debut at 18, and she, more than anyone, knows that anything is possible in the competition as she bids for a shock upset. Ekaterina Makarova will play Ayumi Morita in the second singles rubber for Russia.
Australia will bid to assert itself on the World Group by inflicting Czech Republic’s first defeat in almost three years. Petr Pala’s side, whose last defeat in the competition came at the hands of Italy in April 2010, field a formidable line up in Petra Kvitova, Lucie Safarova and doubles pair Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, with Jamila Gajsdosova, Sam Stosur and Australian Open women’s doubles finalists Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua charged with taking them down. Kvitova and Gajdosova will duel in the opening rubber before Stosur battles against Safarova in the second match at the Cez Arena in Prague.
Italy will provide an equally daunting test for Mary Joe Fernandez’s visiting USA. The hosts will field world No. 7 Sara Errani against No. 64 Jamie Hampton in the opening rubber before No. 67 Vararva Lepchenko takes on Roberta Vinci at the 105 Stadium in Rimini. “Looking at the rankings we’re favourites,” admitted Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti. “We’re here to win this match. The players know they must win and they have that pressure but this is normal for them."
Serbia face a stern challenge against Slovak Republic after losing Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic to niggling injuries at the last minute. Last year’s finalists face an uphill battle to avoid going out in the first round in 2013 with Bojana Jovanovski, carrying a niggling injury of her own, due to take on Daniela Hanutchova in the first round before Vesna Dolonc faces world No. 15 Dominika Cibulkova.
In what has to be considered the highlight of World Group II, France and Germany lock horns at the Palais de Sports Beaublanc in Limoges as Amelie Mauresmo takes charge of the French team for the first time. The hosts were dealt an early blow with the news that Marion Bartoli, absent from the French team for nine whole years due to a dispute over her father not being able to coach her during Fed Cup weeks, had been struck down with flu and was forced to pull out. In her place, Pauline Parmentier faces Sabine Lisicki in the opening rubber before Kristina Mladenovic takes on Julia Goerges in the second match on Saturday.
Yanina Wickmayer starts for Belgium as they begin their bid to bounce back into the World Group against Switzerland in Bern. The visitors are favoured to take a lead into the final day on Sunday, with world No.22 up against No. 67 Romina Oprandi before in-form world No. 34 Kirsten Flipkens plays No. 89 Stefanie Voegele in the second rubber.
Sweden start with Johanna Larsson, who at world No. 67 is ranked 126 spots higher than her opponent in the first rubber Paula Ormaechea, while world No. 219 Maria Irigoyen faces an uphill battle against world No. 38 Sofia Arvidsson. Sweden’s singles players are due to combine in the doubles against Irigoyen and 24-year-old Mailen Auroiux.
Meanwhile, Spain and Ukraine meet for the first time this weekend, with both teams looking to bounce straight back into the World Group after suffering relegation last year. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, making her tenth Fed Cup appearance, opens up for Conchita Martinez’s side against 18-year-old Elina Svitolina. Silvia Soler-Espinosa follows with a second rubber against Lesia Tsurenko on Saturday.
For more information on the individual World Group and World Group II ties, click the relevant link below:
Czech Republic v Australia
Italy v USA
Russia v Japan
Serbia v Slovak Republic
World Group II
Argentina v Sweden
France v Germany
Belgium v Switzerland
Spain v Ukraine