Vinci facing Panova in opening match of the Fed Cup final
CAGLIARI, Sardinia (AP) -- Seventh-ranked Roberta Vinci will take on Alexandra Panova and Sara Errani will face 18-year-old Irina Khromacheva on Saturday to open the Fed Cup final between Italy and Russia.
Russia has won the tournament four times in the past 10 years. But the team is missing top players, with most competing in the season-ending Tournament of Champions in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The highest-ranked player, No. 183 Alisa Kleybanova, is 95 places below Italy's fourth player, Karin Knapp.
"I don't know her very much. I'll see maybe on Internet how she plays," Errani said. "She's very young but she's a good player. So it won't be easy for sure, but we are ready to go on court and give everything."
Italy, in its fifth final in eight years, is the overwhelming favorite to claim its fourth Fed Cup title.
"We know we are the favorite, but it's not easy. We know there will be a lot of tension but we will try to focus on our game and try our best. It will be full of people, so it will be nice for sure."
Khromacheva, Panova and Margarita Gasparyan have never played for their country.
The reverse singles are Sunday with Errani taking on Panova and Vinci facing Khromacheva. Vinci and Errani are the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the world. But Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti has chosen Flavia Pennetta - who has been a part of three Fed Cup-winning teams - and Knapp to face Kleybanova and Gasparyan.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.