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Experienced Italians can end Czech Republic’s Fed Cup reign

| 18.04.2013

After they sat out the 3-2 first round win over the USA in February, the return of Italy’s Fed Cup big guns ahead of their semi-final with defending champions the Czech Republic will have given the three-time winners an injection of both confidence and quality.

Both Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Panetta return to Corrado Barazzutti’s side ahead of the hosts’ meeting with the Czechs in Palermo on Saturday, when the 6/4 tournament favourites will be looking to inflict a first Fed Cup defeat on their opponents since 2010.

Schiavone and Panetta were part of the team back then and also last year when it was the Czechs who ran out 4-1 last four winners over Italy, but a change in the makeup of their team this time around – plus a relocation from the hard courts of Ostrava to the clay in Sicily – makes a repeat less likely.

Missing doubles world No. 4 Andrea Hlavackova, the Czechs – who are available at 3/1 to win a third successive Fed Cup – are left with just one doubles specialist in Lucie Hradecka.

That means that a partnership which is undefeated in the Fed Cup, as well being finalists at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, is broken up, leaving the Italian doubles pair of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci fancying their chances if the tie goes to a deciding rubber. Vinci currently holds the record of most Fed Cup doubles matches without defeat with 18.

Vinci will look forward to finding herself pitched in against the Czechs’ singles No. 1 Petra Kvitova given that she bested the left hander in straight sets on clay just last week in Poland, whilst Barazzutti could name his No. 3 ranked player Schiavone as No. 2 given her 3-0 career record against Czech No. 2 Lucie Safarova.

In the other semi-final, Russia – who are 13/8 for the tournament – should have enough to see off 10/1 shots Slovakia.



Mark Jones