CAGLIARI, Sardinia - Two countries that have dominated Fed Cup in recent years, Italy and Russia, will battle this weekend for the 2013 title on clay at the sold-out Tennis Club Cagliari.
At least one of those two countries has been in the final nine of the past 10 years, with Italy securing three titles during that period and Russia four.
Italy comes into this contest with a roster with a huge advantage in experience. World No.7 Sara Errani has played 24 singles and doubles Fed Cup matches, winning 16 of them and playing a big role in the Italians' 2009 and 2010 title runs. World No.13 Roberta Vinci is 22-4 in Fed Cup action, including a remarkable 18-0 in doubles. She also was instrumental in all three of Italy's title runs.
Though she is still establishing her WTA credentials, Russia's Irina Khromacheva should not be overlooked. The 18-year-old is a former junior World No.1 whose four ITF Women's Circuit titles have all come on clay and who won two Grand Slam junior doubles titles at Roland Garros. Teammate Alexandra Panova, who is also making her Fed Cup debut, is a seven-time ITF Women's Circuit titlist who reached her first WTA final on clay in February 2012 in Bogotá.
The tie will kick off on Saturday, with Vinci taking on Panova followed by Errani against Khromacheva. Then on Sunday, Errani is scheduled to square off with Panova and Vinci against Khromacheva. The doubles will follow, with Flavia Pennetta and Karin Knapp set to take on Alisa Kleybanova and Margarita Gasparyan.
Both captains could decide to alter their line-ups for Sunday depending on earlier matches. For instance, Italy could move doubles World No.1s Errani and Vinci into the doubles match and Russia could move former World No.20 Kleybanova into singles play.
Italy secured its place in the final with defeats of the United States and Czech Republic, while Russia beat Japan and the Slovak Republic.
Russia has been victorious in five of its six Fed Cup ties against Italy, including the one other time they squared off in the final in 2007.