SOCHI, RUSSIA: Russia is in uncharted territory after failing to reach the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas semifinals for the first time since 2006. They face a play-off with Argentina to try and stay with global tennis’ elite eight and avoid relegation to World Group II.
The tie is being played in Sochi, which recently hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. In fact the court is situated in the Adler Arena, which was used for speed skating at the games. However, the ice is long gone and in its place is red clay.
It is a special moment for Elena Vesnina. She announced on Thursday that she is going to get married, while she will be competing in her home city of Sochi.
“It’s always great to play at home and when your home crowd is behind you it always helps,” said the 27 year-old, who says she has ordered 70 tickets for tie to accommodate all her friends and family. “It always helps for Fed Cup and Davis Cup matches because when you have the crowd behind your back, it’s like 50 percent of your victory.”
However, Vesnina could be in for a big test when she faces Argentina’s No. 1, Paula Ormaechea in opening rubber of the weekend. The 21 year-old has a good Fed Cup record and has 11 victories from 12 matches on clay in the competition during her career. She says preparations have been good despite the vast distance they have had to travel, while she has been very impressed at the facilities on offer. Russia’s top two players are both ranked above the South American and Ormaechea acknowledges that the home side are the favourites.
“If the tie is not for us this time, it is still really good what we are doing. We do not have the best team, but we are working for the future,” the world No. 71 mentioned.
“It’s not all about being in the World Group next year, but we want to be with the best players, but I know we have to work for it a lot,” Ormaechea added.
The second match of the day will see Ekaterina Makarova in action against Maria Irigoyen, who at world No. 155 is some 122 places below the Russian in the rankings. Makarova is in good form and has overcome a problem with her wrist, but she is not too familiar with her opponent.
“I know she is a leftie and that’s all I know about her. I don’t really know much about the Argentinian team. I know that Paula Ormachea is on the tour, but I have not seen her matches”, the world No. 22 mentioned.
“We just need to go out there and fight until the last point. A team competition is a little bit different. It is a different situation and different motivation, so some girls may have a lower ranking, but can play unbelievable tennis,” said Makarova.
The Argentine camp who are always happy to play on clay, were a little surprised Russia chose to play on this surface.
The former French Open champion Anastasia Myskina, who has taken over at the helm from the legendry Shamil Tarpishchev, will captain Russia. Myskina, who helped Russia win the competition in 2004, winning all three matches in final against France, did not have the greatest start to her captaincy career, as her country lost 4-0 to Australia in the first round in February. The 32 year-old, who is also a mother of three children, admits to “feeling nervous”, but also explained why Russia decided to play on clay.
“Every April for the Fed Cup we put in the clay courts because it’s in the clay season. We decided it’s better for the girls.”
R1: Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Paula Ormaechea (ARG)
R2: Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Maria Irigoyen (ARG)
R3: Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Paula Ormaechea (ARG)
R4: Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Maria Irigoyen (ARG)
R5: Valeria Solovyeva/Darya Kasatkina (RUS) v Maria Irigoyen/Paula Ormaechea (ARG)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Maria-Jose Gaidano (ARG) - 18/04/2014
Maria Irigoyen (ARG) - 18/04/2014
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) - 18/04/2014
Captain Anastasia Myskina (RUS) - 18/04/2014
Paula Ormaechea (ARG) - 18/04/2014
Elena Vesnina (RUS) - 18/04/2014