San Diego: Holders Italy are striving to avoid any hint of complacency as they prepare to face an under-strength United States in this weekend’s Fed Cup final.
The Italians are heavy favourites to win the title for the third time in five years against a U.S. lineup deprived of their top two players, Serena and Venus Williams, because of injury.
“On paper, we’re favourites but that’s the big trap,” Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti told Reuters during practice at the San Diego Sports Arena on Thursday. “We must be very careful.
“Everybody expects Italy to win this match but we have to play with a lot of respect for the opponent, a lot of concentration. We have to fight. That is the only way to win.
“Every Fed Cup match is difficult because it is not an individual tournament. We know very well that anything can happen and so we have to be very, very focused.”
Barazzutti, part of the only Italian men’s team to win the Davis Cup in 1976, said he was not concerned that the Williams sisters would miss the showpiece women’s event.
“It’s not our problem the Williams don’t play against us in this Fed Cup,” he added. “Just like last year, we play against the team that is here and so we concentrate on this team.
“We know very well that with the Williams America is a much stronger team but they are not here, so we don’t care.”
Serena pulled out of the Fed Cup final earlier this month after re-injuring her right foot from over-training just 13 days after Venus ended her season due to a nagging knee injury.
In their absence, the U.S. will field three singles players ranked outside the top 55 -- Bethanie Mattek-Sands (58th), Melanie Oudin 67th and Coco Vandeweghe 114th.
The Italians will be represented by French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, the world number seven, 23rd-ranked Flavia Pennetta, Roberta Vinci (38th) and Sara Errani (42nd).
“This is a great team,” Barazzutti said of the same lineup that whitewashed the U.S. 4-0 in last year’s final in Reggio Calabria. “It was a great team before and it’s a great team now.
“We have an historic chance to increase our winning streak at the Fed Cup in the last few years. For our women’s tennis, it is a great moment. We love to play in this competition, we almost feel it is our own competition.”
Although Italy have much more experience playing on clay, Barazzutti felt his team had already adjusted well to the faster indoor hardcourt surface being used for this year’s final.
“The court is good for us, it’s not a problem,” he said. “We prefer to play on the clay court for sure but my players play on any surface. We have practised well, the players are in good shape and they are ready to win this match.”
The final begins with the opening singles on Saturday. The reverse singles and concluding doubles are scheduled for Sunday.