This weekend’s clash between Italy and Russia at the Tennis Club Cagliari is not the first Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final between the two nations.
Back in 2007, Russia took on the Italians in Moscow for the denouement of the biggest team competition in women’s sport and the result saw a resounding victory for the hosts.
Russia went into the 2007 Final as overwhelming favourites having named three Top 10 singles players in the shape of World No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze and No. 8 Nadia Petrova.
By contrast, the Italians had just one player (Francesca Schiavone) ranked inside the Top 25 but Corrado Barazzutti’s team could take heart from the fact that they were on a winning streak of five ties having defeated Belgium to win the title in 2006 before reaching back-to-back finals.
The first rubber drew Chakvetadze against Schiavone and despite the Italian putting in a typically gutsy performance it was the Russian who prevailed 64 46 64 to give the hosts the perfect start at the Luzhniki Small Sports Arena.
Kuznetsova lived up to her billing as the best player on show by making light work of Italian No. 2 Mara Santangelo with an emphatic 62 61 triumph that had the Russians in the driving seat at the end of the first day’s play.
The first match on Sunday was where the 2007 Final really came to life. Schiavone entered the battle of the No. 1s knowing that she needed to win to keep her team alive. In a thrilling match-up, Kuznetsova clinched the winning point for the host nation with a 46 76(7) 75 triumph.
Six years later and the two nations go head-to-head with the roles very much reversed. Italy, on home soil, have the better players on paper including one Roberta Vinci, who was part of the Italian team in the 2007 Final.
The jovial 30-year-old is hoping her team can avenge the loss in 2007 with a win this weekend and explained her reason for opting out of the WTA's Tournament of Champions in Sofia.
"I prefer to play for Italy in Fed Cup," she said. "We are in the Final and would like to win the championship. We are a strong team. It’s tough but you have to stay focussed and win again this time.”
And Vinci knows she cannot underestimate her opponents, just like the Russians did not underestimate her team six years ago. “I know Alisa Kleybanova and [Alexandra] Panova,” she said. “I saw them during the Tour. They are good players and for sure it will be tough.”
The final starts on Saturday with two singles rubbers and concludes on Sunday with the two reverse singles rubbers and the doubles rubber. The draw takes place on Friday at 12:30am local time (11:30 GMT).