Pavlyuchenkova to lead Russia against Serbia

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will face Jelena Jankovic in the

opening singles match Saturday when Russia hosts Serbia in the Fed

Cup semifinals.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova will face

former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic in the second match.

Serbia has reached the semifinals of the tournament for the

first time and, with the two former No. 1-ranked players on the

team, is considered the favorite.

Russia, a four-time champion, has beaten Serbia in all three of

their previous meetings, but is without its two top players: Maria

Sharapova and Vera Zvonareva.

”It’s going to be a historic moment for us.” Jankovic said.

”Hopefully we could make it into the final. It’s been a long way

to come up to this stage (of the competition). It will be a tough

match. We are playing against Russia and in Russia.”

Ivanovic, whose was in doubt because of the flu, said she was

ready for the match.

”I think, we have really good chances (to win),” she said.

”We had good preparation and good team spirit and it’s the biggest

chance for us and we all want to make most of it.”

The last time the two teams played, in Belgrade in the first

round in 2010, Russia won 3-2.

Jankovic won both of her singles matches, while Ivanovic lost

twice, and the two players then were beaten by the Russian duo of

Kuznetsova and Alisa Kleybanova in the decisive doubles match.

”This time it will be a tough match, for sure,” Serbia captain

Dejan Vranes said. ”But we have worked hard and our team is ready

for the match. We’ll try our best to win.”

Sharapova was not scheduled to play in the best-of-five series,

while Zvonareva was dropped from the team because of a shoulder

injury.

”In this situation, it was clear that Kuznetsova will play

singles,” Russia captain Shamil Tarpischev said. ”But we had

several options for the second player in the singles and the

decision to name Pavlyuchenkova as No. 1 was taken in the last

minute.”

Another option was Maria Kirilenko, who is 1-3 in two

appearances for Russia but has the highest WTA ranking among the

four players at No. 21.

Pavlyuchenkova is 3-0 against Jankovic on the WTA Tour, while

the 27th-ranked Kuznetsova is 2-6 against Ivanovic.

Ivanovic downplayed the statistics.

”It’s always tough to play them (Russians) on the WTA Tour,”

Ivanovic said. ”And the Fed Cup is different from the tour

tournaments because there is much more at stake. You are playing

for your country and it’s always very, very open.”

In Sunday’s reverse singles, Pavlyuchenkova will take on

Ivanovic, while Kuznetsova will play Jankovic. In doubles, the

Russian pair of Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina will face the Serbian

duo of Bojana Janovski and Aleksandra Krunic.

The reverse singles and doubles nominations can be changed

depending on the results of the previous matches.

The winner will play either the Czech Republic or Italy in the

final on Nov. 3-4.