Hobart, 4 February 2011 | AAP
Fed Cup rookie Jarmila Groth will take on French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the opening singles rubber of Australia’s World Group first-round showdown with Italy in Hobart.
Australian spearhead Samantha Stosur will face Italian No.2 Flavia Pennetta in Saturday’s second singles match before locking horns with her Roland Garros final conqueror Schiavone in Sunday’s first reverse singles rubber.
Australia is making its first appearance back in the elite eight-nation World Group since 2004, while Italy is the two-time defending Fed Cup champion and top seed in 2011.
Groth and Schiavone have never met previously and the match features two players enjoying career-high rankings.
Slovakia-born Groth has climbed to No.31 in the world and will be extra confident in the surroundings having won the Hobart International only last month.
Schiavone rose to No.4 in the WTA standings after outlasting Svetlana Kuznetsova in the longest Grand Slam women’s match in history, a four-hour, 44-minute epic, to reach the quarterfinals of last month’s Australian Open in Melbourne.
Stosur, also at a career-high No.5 in the world, trails the 16th-ranked Pennetta 3-0 head-to-head, but Australian captain David Taylor – who doubles as the Queenslander’s fulltime coach – has every faith in his charge’s ability at reversing that run of losses this weekend.
Taylor on Friday named dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anastasia Rodionova to partner veteran Rennae Stubbs in Sunday’s potentially decisive doubles rubber, but has not ruled out drafting in Stosur.
Under Fed Cup rules, the respective captains have until one hour before the third singles rubber to alter their line-ups and up to 10 minutes after the conclusion of the third singles rubber to change players for the fourth singles match.
The captains can also vary their doubles teams within 15 minutes of the conclusion of the fourth singles rubber.
Some tickets remain for this weekend’s Fed Cup World Group tie in Hobart. Tickets can be purchased from Ticketek.
The Australia v Italy Fed Cup World Group tie will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 3 this weekend. View the TV guide details here