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Tennis: Champions Russia to battle with USA for a place in the final (AFP)

  • 25.04.2008
MOSCOW, April 25, 2008 (AFP)
Reigning Fed Cup champions Russia will fight it out with 17-time title winners the United States for a place in this year's final here this weekend.
Russia won the two nations' last two head-to-head encounters in 2005 and 2007 but the United States still lead the overall record 4-2.
Russia's skipper Shamil Tarpishchev has called on world number four Svetlana Kuznetsova to spearhead his squad, while Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova will miss the showdown with the American team.
"We had an agreement with Kuznetsova and Sharapova that one of them would play against Israel and the other against the United States," Tarpishchev said.
Russia's captain also called up Anna Chakvetadze, who is seventh in the world, Dinara Safina, 17th in the WTA rankings and Elena Vesnina, who is 44th in the rankings to play against the US team.
Meanwhile, the USA team's captain Zina Garrison has currently a set of unexperienced young players at her disposal as America's brightest stars decided to withdraw from playing in the Fed Cup semis.
Garrison has chosen Vania King, 115th in the world, Ahsha Rolle, 145th in the WTA rankings, Madison Brengle 249th in the rankings, along with the doubles specialist Liezel Huber to play against the hosts.
"Serena and Venus Williams were forced to withdraw from playing here because of some contract obligations they have to discharge," Garrison said.
"Lindsay (Davenport) had some health problems that prevented her from coming to Moscow. She was seriously upset as she really wanted to play in the semi-finals.
"Anyway we came here to play for our country and I expect a top-class showdown," she added.
Despite the fact that Russia look clear favourites in the match the hosts take their opponents very seriously and are preparing for a tough clash.
"The American team have nothing to lose and it puts extra pressure on our side," Tarpishchev said.
Kuznetsova also said that she was taking her rivals seriously, adding that plenty of favourites had fallen foul after underestimating their opponents.
"It will be a tough match," Kuznetsova said. "We are clear favourites ahead of the start. But we all should play at our top level to win here.
"I believe in our team. We all are experienced fighters and should make no childish mistakes."
The winner of the tie between Russia and the United States will face either China or Spain in the match for the title.