Czechs, Russians Assemble For Fed Cup Final
Published November 04, 2011 01:40
MOSCOW, Russia - So far this year, Petra Kvitova has won six titles, including her maiden Grand Slam at Wimbledon and, just last week, the season-ending TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul. Along the way she's risen from outside the Top 30 to No.2 in the world. But there's still one big item on the 21-year-old lefty's 2011 agenda: this weekend's Fed Cup final against Russia.
The Czechs last tasted Fed Cup glory in 1988, in the days of the former Czechoslovakia (when they beat the Soviet Union in the final). However, while Slovakia has enjoyed success as an independent nation, Daniela Hantuchova leading the side to victory in 2002, the Czechs are still looking for their first triumph since the Velvet Divorce. After semifinal finishes in each of the past two years, they won through to what is their first final thanks to wins over Slovakia in February, and Belgium in April's semifinals.
The in-form Kvitova has been at the vanguard all year, winning all four of her singles matches in the competition - results that have contributed to a personal 19-0 record indoors this season. If she brings that momentum to Moscow's Olympic Stadium the visitors will be hard to beat - but she's adopting a typically low-key approach.
"It's very nice that we're in the final," Kvitova said. "If we win it will be something amazing for us and for Czech Republic, but we have to win three points which will be really tough against Russia. I think they are a little bit the favourites, but after Istanbul it's quite open and I imagine when we're playing at the weekend it's going to be 50-50."
The Russians are, indeed, a formidable prospect at home: the four-time champions haven't lost a tie here since falling to eventual champions France in the semifinals in 2003. This weekend they'll be playing with the home advantage in a final for the first time since 2007, when they defeated Italy 4-0.
With world No.7 Vera Zvonareva a late withdrawal due to a shoulder injury, the hosts will be led by two-time Grand Slam champion and Fed Cup stalwart Svetlana Kuznetsova, currently ranked No.19 but a former world No.2 herself. At Friday's draw it was determined that Maria Kirilenko would play the opening rubber against Kvitova, before Kuznetsova takes to the court against the other lefty ace in the Czechs' pack, Lucie Safarova. Safarova and Kirilenko sit just three places apart in the rankings, at No.24 and No.27, respectively.
The Russians have designated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - a possible candidate for Sunday's reverse singles, given she is ranked No.15 - and Elena Vesnina to play the doubles. Reigning French Open champion Lucie Hradecka and reigning Wimbledon champion Kveta Peschke will team up for the Czechs.