Germany desperate to end 22-year wait for Fed Cup title
Germany tackle favourites Czech Republic this weekend looking for a first Fed Cup title since 1992, their heady days of tennis when Steffi Graf was in her prime.
Prague: Germany tackle favourites Czech Republic this weekend looking for a first Fed Cup title since 1992, their heady days of tennis when Steffi Graf was in her prime.
The Czechs, champions in 2011 and 2012, will be spearheaded by world number four and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and have home advantage on the hardcourt of Prague's O2 Arena where they beat Serbia 3-1 three years ago.
"It's a very emotional thing for us," said Germany's number two player Andrea Petkovic who has enjoyed an impressive run to the final by beating Dominika Cibulkova in the first round against Slovakia and former US Open champion Sam Stosur in the semi-final win over Australia.
"I think we are all very tired. It's been a long season. We obviously had to fly in the middle of the season to Australia for Fed Cup but being here makes up for it," added Petkovic, fresh from her season-ending WTA title in Sofia at the weekend.
"There were some times where I was really tired but being here in the Fed Cup Final is just so special and just so meaningful."
Despite their status as favourites, the Czech Republic insist they will not underestimate Germany who are skippered by Barbara Rittner who played in the German team which last won the Fed Cup 22 years ago.
"The Germans can play on any surface and they have players to choose from. We're facing a tough opponent," Czech captain Petr Pala told reporters.
"The court is very fast, but it also suits us. We are ready to play on a fast court," said Rittner.
"It's going to be very tough matches, every single one is going to be very close, no matter the surface."
Kvitova will lead the Czech challenge, having already starred in the Fed Cup wins in 2011 and 2012.
They have also called up 17th-ranked Lucie Safarova, 24th-ranked youngster Karolina Pliskova and doubles specialist Lucie Hradecka.
World number 10 Angelique Kerber will lead the German team that also comprises 14th-ranked Petkovic, 27th-ranked Sabine Lisicki and 75th-ranked Julia Goerges.
But knowing the doubles rubber may decide the Saturday-Sunday final, both captains have capitalised on a rule allowing them to make a change an hour before Friday's draw and brought in an extra doubles specialist.
For singles, "we have Angelique (Kerber) and Andrea (Petkovic). That's how we'll start," said Rittner.
But she left the doubles pair open, with Anna-Lena Groenefeld, in 35th spot the highest-ranking German doubles player, practising with the team and ready to play.
Groenefeld and Goerges played Germany's two Fed Cup doubles rubbers this year but lost both.
Pala may also decide to nominate Andrea Hlavackova, the world number 15 for doubles, alongside Hradecka, likely leaving rising star Pliskova on the bench.
Hlavackova and Hradecka decided to team up again last month after a 2013 split following two Grand Slam titles and the 2012 Olympic silver medal from London.
In their last Fed Cup encounter, the Czech Republic led by Kvitova beat Lisicki-led Germany 4-1 in Stuttgart in February 2012, with Hradecka, Goerges, Kerber and Groenefeld also playing.
Germany won the Fed Cup in 1987 and 1992 with teams led by Graf.
Rittner said she was eager to make it two.
"I have a small (trophy) from 1992 and I am very keen to have another one because it looks much better to have two at home."