at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Prague – The Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova insisted Wednesday she would beat a cold in time to face Serbia in the Fed Cup final in Prague next weekend with eyes on defending the trophy.
The 22-year-old world number eight led the Czechs to a victory over Russia in last year's finals in Moscow that handed them their first trophy since splitting from Slovakia in 1993.
But her health has become a major concern in the run-up to the 2012 final after she pulled out of the WTA Championships in Istanbul last week with a bad cold.
“I feel better every day, I feel better today than I did yesterday, and if it goes on like this, I'll be fit on Saturday,” said the 2011 Wimbledon champion.
Asked if she expected to play, she gave a clear “yes.”
Czech team captain Petr Pala echoed that.
“We expect her to play, we never thought she wouldn't be playing,” he said.
Kvitova, the Australian and French Open semifinalist this year, will team up with world number 17 Lucie Safarova for the Fed Cup final to form a left-handed singles team.
Pala has also named Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, world numbers 3 and 4 in doubles, who played the Wimbledon, US Open and WTA Championship finals and won Olympic silver this year.
Serbia, playing their first Fed Cup final ever, will rely on former world number one players Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, who are now 12th and 22nd.
“They are former WTA leaders and that's what makes them dangerous. They have experience with big arenas, big courts, big games,” said Pala.
Serbia captain Dejan Vranes has also called up Bojana Jovanovski (56) and Aleksandra Krunic (167).
Jankovic admitted that “it would give us a better opportunity” if Kvitova stayed on the bench.
“Playing her will be very tough if she's healthy, it's going to be a tough match. She's a very tough left-handed player, she goes for short points,” Jankovic said.
“But this court is not that fast and the ball is a bit fluffy and the game gets a little slower... that suits us more than them,” she added after training on Prague's hardcourt Novacrylic Ultracushion System.
Ivanovic said she hoped Kvitova would make it as “it's obviously better when you're playing the finals that both teams come with the strongest, best players.”
“You want to win beating the best players, you want to deserve it in the best possible way,” she added.
Vranes said the Czechs were the favourites, but he also praised Serbia's “great team spirit” and determination to copy their countrymen's victory in the Davis Cup two years ago.
“They're a great inspiration to all of us,” said Jankovic, recalling the 2010 party in Belgrade.
“Winning the Fed Cup is a different and very special feeling, it's difficult to compare it to individual tournaments... here you can celebrate with your team and your people.”
“We very much deserve to be here and hopefully we can make one more step,” she added.
The Fed Cup finals will be played in Prague's O2 Arena with a capacity of 14,000.
“It's the final tie, we're defending the trophy and those who will come won't expect anything but a victory,” said Kvitova.
“In this respect, the pressure will be bigger than in Moscow.”
“But they will be with us and propel us,” she added.
The Czechs beat Italy in this year's semi-finals, while Serbia saw off Russia.
The former Czechoslovakia won five Fed Cup titles between 1975 and 1988. – Sapa-AFP