April 19, 2013
Daniela Hantuchova, 29, is 11-9 on the year and ranked No. 75.
Wilfredo Lee/AP

Slovakia chose the experienced Daniela Hantuchova over the higher-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova to back up Dominika Cibulkova against Russia in their Fed Cup semifinal this weekend.

Cibulkova will open against Anastasiya Pavlyuchenkova, followed by Hantuchova playing Maria Kirilenko in the second singles on indoor clay at Krylatskoye Ice Stadium.

Rybarikova was picked in Friday's draw in doubles, which concludes the semi on Sunday. She and Jana Cepelova will face Russia's Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.

"Players rankings are not so important in the Fed Cup," Slovakia captain Matej Liptak said. "She (Hantuchova) is very experienced and is in good form. That's why I believe in her."

Hantukova, ranked 30 spots below Rybarikova at 75th, has a 34-16 win-loss record in Fed Cup, compared to Rybarikova, who hasn't played Fed Cup singles since 2010, and lost four consecutive doubles.

Hantuchova won both of her singles against Serbia in the first round, and holds a 5-2 record against Kirilenko.

"It doesn't matter what results you have on the WTA Tour," Hantuchova said. "It's a different competition and it always makes me play my best tennis during these weeks."

"Kirilenko said: "We have never met on clay, but anyway, the Fed Cup is different. It's difficult to predict the result."

Russia, a four-time champion, beat Slovakia 3-2 in their previous matches and is regarded as the favourite in its seventh consecutive semifinal, having all four players in the top 30.

"Our opponents are in good form. They are very dangerous, but we also can beat anybody," Liptak said.

Pavlyuchenkova, who missed Russia's first-round win over Japan in February because of injury, is fresh from winning her fourth career title in Monterrey, Mexico, two week ago. She is tied at 1-1 with Cibulkova, with both matches played in 2010.

"It's never easy to play against Russia," Cibulkova said. "They have so many good players."

Cibulkova said she has adapted to the court laid on ice. "It's still damp but I'm looking forward to a tough match tomorrow," she said.

Russia has returned to the venue where it captured its first title in 2002.

"It's a good symbol for us to be back here," Russia captain Shamil Tarpischev said. "But I think that Slovakia is a very tough opponent. I consider our chances are equal."

The winner will face two-time defending champion Czech Republic or Italy in the final on Nov. 2-3.

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