PARIS (Reuters) - Outsiders France face a daunting task when they take on 2014 and 2015 champions Czech Republic at the Fed Cup final in Strasbourg this weekend.
The Czechs have won four of the last five editions while France are in the final for the first time since 2005.
French pair Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic are ranked second in doubles but the holders have two top singles players in double grand slam champion Petra Kvitova and world number six Karolina Pliskova.
Mladenovic and Garcia were picked by captain Amelie Mauresmo after their suspension, for damaging the French federation’s image at the 2016 Rio Olympics following a mix-up over clothing, was lifted in September.
Mauresmo, who as a player led her nation to their last title in 2003, believes her team can pull off an upset.
“The rankings reflect the form of a season,” she told French media.
“What I want from my players is that they compete with their rivals for two days,” added Mauresmo who is hoping to become the fourth woman, after Margaret Court, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert, to win the Fed Cup as a player and captain.
Mladenovic will open proceedings on the Rhenus Sport arena hardcourt on Saturday against U.S. Open runner-up Pliskova before Garcia takes on Kvitova. The reverse singles and the doubles are held on Sunday.
The Czechs say they will take nothing for granted.
“To win we will need to play better than well,” said Petr Pala who would become the most successful Fed Cup captain in history if she landed the title for a fifth time.
“If all four girls play well, and the way they are capable of, then it will give us a chance.”
The Czechs beat France 3-1 the last time the teams met in the semi-finals in Ostrava last year.
Editing by Tony Jimenez