| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff
Photo credit: Kenneth B. Goldberg

Ana Ivanovic will play Lucie Safarova in the opening rubber match of the 2012 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final between Czech Republic and Serbia. The draw also pitted Petra Kvitova and Jelena Jankovic against one another in the second singles rubber on Saturday. Czech captain Petr Pala has nominated the established doubles duo of Lucie Hradecka & Andrea Hlavackova in what could be a decisive fifth rubber once the reverse singles matches have finished on Sunday. They are scheduled to play Bojana Jovanovski & Aleksandra Krunic, but Serbia's captain Dejan Vranes could make a last-minute change if he feels it would help his team win a first Fed Cup title.

"It’s an historical moment for Serbian women’s tennis," said Jankovic. "We are all excited to be here in Prague and to have this opportunity to win the title, which is our ultimate goal and we very much look forward to the competition."

Her opponent on Saturday, Kvitova spoke of feeling as if she was on the road to recovery after being laid low by Bronchitis in Istanbul. She also refuted any suggestion that the home team had to live up to the expectation of being the reigning champions.

"I don’t think that we have a pressure because we are the defending champions," she said. "I think it’s because we are playing at home, it’s a full stadium and 14,000 people will come to support us. I’m looking forward to the tie for every minute."

Saturday's opening rubber is a re-match of the encounter between Safarova and Ivanovic at Sydney earlier this year and the Czech won that clash to improve her overall win-loss record against the Serbian to 3-2.

"This competition is the largest annual team competition for women in any sport and will be 50 years old next year," said TF President Francesco Ricci Bitti. "The players who fought to get this competition going in 1963, like Billie Jean King and Margaret Court, felt that tennis needed an international team competition for women. These women are apostles for the modern game. Long before there was a tour, long before there was equal prize money, long before tennis returned to the Olympic movement, Fed Cup gave women players a chance to compete in a global competition, wearing the colors of their nations proudly."

Serbia is bidding to win their first Fed Cup title having reached their first final here this year. Prior to 2012 Serbia had never even won a World Group tie.