Safranova, Ivanovic to open Fed Cup final

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iol spt nov2 Safranova AFP Lucie Safarova, pictured, of holders Czech Republic will take on Serbia's Ana Ivanovic in the first singles rubber of the Fed Cup final here on Saturday.

Prague – Lucie Safarova of holders Czech Republic will take on Serbia's Ana Ivanovic in the first singles rubber of the Fed Cup final here on Saturday, after Friday's draw.

Safarova, the world number 17 and Czech number two, will face world number 12 Ivanovic, who is Serbia's number one, in Prague's O2 Arena from 1230 GMT on Saturday.

“I definitely feel a little bit of pressure, but it's like that before every match you play,” Ivanovic, a former world number one, told reporters.

“Obviously we expect a very tough match tomorrow so it's going to be important to start well... to create a little more pressure” on the rivals, she added.

But Ivanovic face a tough challenge as the left-handed Safarova has beaten her in their last three encounters, the most recent being this year in Sydney.

“Statistically, I'm on top,” said Safarova.

“She is an excellent player but I'll do my best,” she added, naming an outstanding serve and forehand and fast play among Ivanovic's virtues.

“But I can play fast too and my left-handedness is a pro, I can attack on her backhand side,” she underlined.

In the second rubber on Saturday, Czech number one Petra Kvitova, who is recovering from a cold that forced her to pull out of the WTA Championship last week, will face Serbia's number two Jelena Jankovic.

“I have some breathing problems but that's what happens when you have a cold,” said Kvitova, the world number eight.

“I feel great both about my play and physically too,” she added after training for over an hour on Thursday.

The crowd of almost 14,000 people in the arena might make all the difference.

“We're playing at home, I'm playing for the team and that will give me strength,” said Kvitova.

She added Jankovic, a former world number one who is now 22nd in the WTA rankings, would return lots of balls owing to her physical style.

“She was a world number one, so I have to reckon with it. She hasn't done miracles lately, but it's different in Fed Cup ties,” Kvitova said.

“She's determined and she will fight for Serbia,” added Kvitova.

On Sunday, Kvitova will face Ivanovic, before Safarova plays Jankovic in the final singles tie.

The Czech Republic's Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka are then due to face Serbia's Bojana Jovanovic and Aleksandra Krunic in the closing doubles rubber.

But the doubles teams may change, with Serbia potentially deciding to use a stronger duo against the Czechs, who are 3rd and 4th in the doubles rankings after reaching the finals at Wimbledon, the US Open, the WTA Championship and the London Olympics.

“It will all depend on the score before the doubles tie,” said Hlavackova.

“I think they will change the team unless it's 3-0,” she added.

Czech captain Petr Pala had less to worry about. “Even if it's 2-2, we won't make any changes ourselves.”

The Czech Republic are defending the trophy after they beat Russia in Moscow 3-2 in 2011.

Former Czechoslovakia, which split peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, lifted the Fed Cup five times between 1975 and 1988.

Serbia are playing their first Fed Cup final. – Sapa-AFP


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