Maria Sharapova will lead her Russian team in the Fed Cup finals this weekend against Petra Kvitova and the Czechs. The tie will be played in Prague on an indoor hardcourt.
On opening day Saturday, Sharapova will face Karolina Pliskova who subs for the ill Lucie Safarova. Kvitova, winner of three Fed Cup titles, will meet Russian No. 2 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
“I never played her, so that will be something new,” said Pliskova of facing Sharapova. “And I have never played in front of the home crowd [in Fed Cup], so it’s going to be a new day for me. I am just going to try and enjoy it.”
Sharapova is appearing in her first career Fed Cup final.
“I think I am excited and nervous at the same time,” said Sharapova. “It’s an incredible opportunity for me and my teammates to play in a final. It’s very rare for me to experience something for the first time after being on tour for so many years.
“It’s a unique atmosphere and I am really excited.”
Russia is seeking a 5th Fed Cup title. Czech Republic a 9th.
“We expect a stadium full of Czechs – I’m sure there will be some Russian flags flying around – but there will be more Czechs in the stadium than Russians,” commented Sharapova. “Our full concentration will be on what is ahead of us and not on what’s going on around us.”
Head-to-head: Czech Republic leads 3-2
This is the 6th meeting between the two sides but their first since the 2011 Final, when Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke won the decisive 5th doubles rubber to secure the Czechs their first Fed Cup title as an independent nation.
Russia won the first meeting between the 2 nations in 1981 under the flag of USSR, but did not defeat the Czechs again for another 20 years – in a World Group round-robin tie in Madrid, Spain in 2001.
Russia is playing a tie in Czech Republic for the first time. The 2011 Final in Moscow was the only one of their 5 previous meetings that has been hosted in either nation – the other 4 were held on neutral ground.
3 of the 5 previous meetings between the 2 nations have required a decisive final rubber.
* Czech Republic and Russia are meeting for the 3rd time in a Fed Cup Final, with the Czechs winning both of their previous encounters in the title decider – in Melbourne in 1988 and in Moscow in 2011.
* This is the 6th meeting between Czech Republic and Russia in Fed Cup, with 3 of their previous 5 contests played under the flags of Czechoslovakia and USSR. Czech Republic leads the head-to-head 3-2.
* Czech Republic is through to its 10th Fed Cup Final. The host nation has an 8-1 win-loss record in Fed Cup Finals, with its only defeat coming under the flag of Czechoslovakia against USA in Prague in 1986. That year, Martina Navratilova won the decisive 2nd rubber for the Americans against the country – and in the city – of her birth.
* Russia is bidding to win its 5th Fed Cup title and equal Spain in 4th-place on the all-time list of Fed Cup champions. Russia last won Fed Cup in 2008 when it defeated Spain in Madrid. The Czechs are seeking their 9th crown and their 4th in 5 years. Russia is the last nation to win Fed Cup 4 times in 5 years – in 2004-05 and 2007-08.
* Russia has lost 3 of its last 4 ties away from home. Its only win in that time came against Poland in this year’s World Group first round. This is only Russia’s 4th away tie in its last 13 Fed Cup encounters.
CZECH REPUBLIC v RUSSIA
Venue: O2 Arena, Prague (hard – indoors)
Petra Kvitova (CZE) v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) v Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Petra Kvitova (CZE) v Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
Lucie Safarova/Barbora Strycova (CZE) v Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (RUS)
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