Safarova to open Fed Cup vs. Schiavone

Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic will face former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy in the opening singles of a Fed Cup semifinal between the last two champions.

The 23rd-ranked Safarova is 4-3 against the 12th-ranked Schiavone, and has won all their matches on hard courts while the Italian has dominated on clay.

In the eastern city of Ostrava, the Czechs are counting on a fast indoor hard court at the CEZ Arena.

”I think the surface will be an advantage for us,” Safarova said. ”I never lost to her on a hard court.”

Schiavone, who won at Roland Garros in 2010, said she was ready for the challenge.

”It’s more about the quality of the players but, of course, the fast surface with the lefty service will be difficult. But we’re ready.”

Both Czech singles players are left handers.

No. 3-ranked Petra Kvitova will play the second singles for the host against No.28 Sara Errani, who won her third Barcelona Open title in four years on Sunday.

”I respect her form,” Kvitova said. ”She won in Barcelona last week but I’ll try to end her winning series.”

In Sunday’s reverse singles, Kvitova first plays Schiavone before Safarova takes on Errani.

In the doubles, French Open champions Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka will play against the Italian pair of Errani and Roberta Vinci.

The hosts are defending champions while Italy won the title in 2006, 2009 and 2010, when it stormed past the Czechs 5-0 in the semis.

Italy won the last four Fed Cup matches against the Czechs.

The winner of the best-of-five series faces Serbia or Russia in November’s final.