MOSCOW (AP) — Maria Kirilenko will face veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm in the opening singles when Russia hosts Japan in their first Fed Cup matchup on Saturday.
Ekaterina Makarova will play Japan's top player, Ayumi Morita, in the second match. Russia is without its most experienced Fed Cup players, Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva. Maria Sharapova was not available for the indoor tie at the Olympic Stadium.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who was originally nominated, pulled out with a shoulder injury. She was substituted by 18-year-old newcomer Margarita Gasparyan, who will pair with Elena Vesnina for the doubles against Morita and Misaki Doi on Sunday.
"We are very happy with the draw because Kimiko will play first and she has never lost against Kirilenko," Japan captain Takeshi Murakami said. The 42-year-old Date-Krumm has played 22 ties and has a 21-9 win-loss record. She's beaten Kirilenko in both of their WTA meetings.
The 13th-ranked Russian is fresh from winning her sixth career title and first since 2008 in Pattaya, Thailand, last weekend, and is keen to improve her 1-3 record in two Fed Cup ties. "Two years have passed (since I played Date-Krumm)," Kirilenko said. "I'm different, as well as Kimiko. I will play at home and in front of my home crowd and I think everything will be all right."
Russia captain Shamil Tarpischev expects the tie to be hard-fought. "We know the Japanese team is always in perfect physical condition, and they always fight for every point till the very end," Tarpischev said. "So, we cannot relax. We must play our best tennis and then everything will be all right."
Four-time champion Russia lost to Serbia at home in the semifinals last season, while Japan beat Belgium in the World Group playoffs to return to the eight-team elite for the first time since 2007. "I think, it will be a very tough match for us," Murakami said. "But we have to win. I'm looking forward to some good matches."
Makarova and Morita have never played each other. Morita has a 20-10 Fed Cup record, while Makarova is only 2-1 from three ties. Reverse singles and the doubles are scheduled for Sunday. The winner will face either Serbia or Slovakia in the semifinals on April 20-21.