ISTANBUL, Turkey - The doubles draw for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul took place on Thursday, with the semifinals set to take place on Saturday and the final Sunday.
Errani and Vinci dominated this rivalry early on, winning their first four meetings - at Madrid, Rome and the French Open last year, and at the Australian Open this year. But in their fifth and arguably most important meeting, in the final of the French Open this year, Makarova and Vesnina won, 75 62.
While Makarova had already tasted Grand Slam glory in mixed doubles, for Vesnina it was a first Grand Slam title of any kind. "It gave me so much confidence and happiness," Vesnina said. "When I finally lifted the trophy with Ekaterina, I felt such a relief. I felt that all the work that I was doing all my life had paid off - since I was a little kid, all I was thinking about was winning a Grand Slam."
At Thursday's draw, the Russians were asked about playing the Italians in their first match here.
"We've played so many times against each other," Vesnina said. "We know it's going to be a great match. It's a tough match for both teams. They're a really strong team and have won so many titles, but for us we're just going to try to do our tennis and play our game and try to think about our strategy.
"And it's just very exciting to be here in Istanbul - we've had a great year and there are a lot of great teams who really wanted to be here, so for us it means a lot. We're going to try our best."
These two teams have less of a history against each other than the other semifinal match-up, not just in terms of matches played, but time spent on court too - they split meetings earlier this year and both of those meetings were blowouts, with Petrova and Srebotnik winning in the semifinals of Indian Wells, 62 62, and Peng and Hsieh getting them back in straight sets in the semifinals of Rome, 62 61.
While Hsieh and Peng are a known quantity - they have won four WTA doubles titles together this year, including their first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon - Petrova and Srebotnik are a bit more of an unknown quantity this week. They had a phenomenal first half of the year, but Petrova has been out of action for most of the fall with a hip injury, though she has won the title in both previous doubles appearances at this event - and Srebotnik is the WTA's doubles match win leader in 2013.
"This is the most important tournament of the year - it's a really special event, and only four teams can qualify, for many years now," Srebotnik said at the draw ceremony. "You have to perform extremely well and consistently throughout the year to get here. So we're really proud to be here this year.
"These are the best four teams in the world. We didn't mind who we drew today, but we knew who the two options were, and now we'll just make our plan and try to execute it when we play them."