Fed Cup Stalwarts Gear Up For SFs
Published April 17, 2013 04:11
This weekend's semifinal with Russia in Moscow will mark Hantuchova's 27th tie in the red, white and blue of Slovakia, who she has represented with distinction for well over a decade. A 34-16 win-loss record stands alongside the very best in the competition's 50-year history and has seen the ITF twice bestow its Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Heart Award on the 29-year-old.
The tie with Russia will be particularly special for Hantuchova, who made her debut in Moscow back in 1999. Despite winning her doubles alongside fellow debutante Ludmila Cervanova, Hantuchova's introduction to Fed Cup play was a losing one, as the home side prevailed 3-2.
"I've got beautiful memories from 1999 when it was my first time I played Fed Cup here, it was quite a while ago," Hantuchova said. "I remember how excited I was just to be here and it's the same feeling still now, so many years later. It doesn't matter where we are, we just enjoy being together and having a great time."
Once again, Hantuchova will come up against a strong Russia side, containing Maria Kirilenko, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, although she remains upbeat that Slovakian spirit can help upset the form guide.
"The Fed Cup week is always very special and I always enjoy being here, so it doesn't matter what kind of results you have throughout the season, because it's a very different competition," she added. "I feel great being here with our captain, who always makes me play my best tennis. I'm sure we will give our best and we'll see what will happen."
Hantuchova is not the only Fed Cup stalwart bidding to reach the final this year. In Palermo, an experienced Italy side with 73 appearances between them takes on reigning champions the Czech Republic.
Central to the Italians' chances of reaching a first final since 2010 will be the in-form Roberta Vinci.
Despite turning 30 earlier this year, Vinci is currently playing some of the best tennis of her life and on Sunday picked up an eighth career title in Katowice. Her victim in the final was a certain Petra Kvitova, who will be leading the Czech team in Sicily.
"Against the Czech Republic, it will be tough for sure," Vinci, who will be joined by Sara Errani, Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone, said. "Last time we lost in the Czech Republic 4-1, but the court was quick and this time we play on a clay court in Italy. I hope the outcome will be different!"
In her previous 22 ties in the competition, Vinci has been deployed primarily as a doubles specialist, a format in which she boasts an unblemished 18-0 record.
"I won a lot but I don't know the secret. Probably my partners!" Vinci joked. "I enjoy playing both singles and doubles, I have this record and I hope to continue it.
"It's different when you play for your country. You play with your Italian friends so I like to play Fed Cup. I have played a lot of times, I have won a lot of times and it's a different experience. It's nice to be able to play and to wear the shirt of your country."