Russian stay-aways threaten to make Fed Cup final a romp

Fri Nov 1, 2013 1:43pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Irina Khromacheva took to Twitter to express her delight at being in Russia's team to face Italy in the Fed Cup final this weekend, although with a world ranking of 236 she probably expected to be watching it on television.

"Very happy to play my first match at Fedcup tomorrow, will give my all. Let's go Russia," said the 18-year-old.

Khromacheva will share the singles responsibilities with Alexandra Panova, ranked 136 in the world, against the red-hot Italian favorites featuring 13th-ranked Roberta Vinci and world number seven Sara Errani.

It has all the makings of a rout in Cagliari, Sardinia after three of Russia's top players, with the exception of the injured Maria Sharapova, opted to play in the WTA's Tournament of Champions in Bulgaria.

Eleven Russian women are ranked higher than Panova whose grand slam record amounts to five first-round losses while Khromacheva plays almost entirely on the second-tier ITF circuit rather than the main Tour.

How different this weekend's clash, the 50th Fed Cup final, could have looked had 18th ranked Maria Kirilenko, Elena Vesnina (25) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (26) opted to represent their country rather than play in a tournament which offers a lucrative end to the season for players who failed to qualify for the WTA Tour Finals in Istanbul last week.

Russia have only lost once in six meetings against Italy but without that trio and the likes of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova, both of whom have called time on their Fed Cup careers, Russia stand little chance against the Italians who are looking to win it for the fourth time.

It begs the question as to how the women's tour organizers the WTA and International Tennis Federation (ITF), who run the Fed Cup, Davis Cup and grand slams, could schedule both events for the same week.   Continued...