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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Russians prepare Moscow clay for visit of U.S.

Russia have chosen a Moscow clay court on which to hunt a first FedCup victory over the United States. The champions will face the U.S. at Moscow's Olympic Stadium over July 9-10 where they will play for a place in the final of the women's international team event. While neither nation's squad has been finalized, world number one Lindsay Davenport along with Venus and Serena Williams have all committed to the U.S. FedCup cause for 2005 and can be expected to line up in the Russian capital. Meanwhile the Russian champions, who have lost all four previous FedCup matches against the U.S., are hopeful Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova will make herself available for selection.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova opted not to play in Russia's FedCup tie against Italy last month citing a too-full tournament schedule, but has said there is a possibility she could play other ties. Russian FedCup captain Shamil Tarpishchev is in negotiations with the player's father Yuri and is hopeful of being able to name her in his squad. "No question, Sharapova has been our best and most consistent player so far this year and if she commits herself to playing for Russia, we definitely have a great chance of defending our Fed Cup title," Tarpishchev said of the world number two recently. On paper Russia would have the strongest squad with possibly three grand slam champions in Anastasia Myskina, Sharapova and U.S. Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and twice runner-up Elena Dementieva joining forces. But internal squabbles could yet scupper their campaign. Myskina led Russia to their first Fed Cup title last November but it was overshadowed by squabbles after she lashed out at Sharapova and her father, accusing them of being disrespectful to her. Myskina said she would stop playing for Russia if the Wimbledon champion was invited to join the team next year. The two players have since publicly patched up their differences, however. Whether Tarpishchev can mold his most gifted players into a cohesive team to defend their title remains to be seen. Мария Шарапова


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