Can the Czech Republic defend their Fed Cup title this year? This is a tricky semi-final against a strong Italian team.
Unsurprisingly, Italy have exploited their home advantage by laying a slow clay court in Palermo to try and combat the threat of Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova who are both devastatingly powerful hitters.
The Italians are at their best on clay and in French Open finalist Sara Errani they have a potential trump card. Errani already has a clay-court crown under her belt this year in Acapulco and she will fancy her chances of winning both singles rubbers. Roberta Vinci has also come into form at exactly the right time. She played some devastating tennis on the clay of Katowice last week and beat Kvitova in straight sets in the final.
Neither Kvitova or Safarova are mugs on clay even though it's their last favourite surface. Kvitova made the French Open semis last year and Safarova has also reached the second week of Roland Garros in the past.
The Czech Republic have dominated the Fed Cup over the past couple of years, mainly due to the rise of Kvitova but before then, Italy was the dominant nation with Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta leading their country to a number of titles. Schiavone and Pennetta are in the team for this tie but neither player is expected to play a big part.
If this tie comes down to the doubles rubber, Italy will have a big advantage as Errani and Vinci are one of the world's best doubles pairings and won the Australian Open title in January.
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