Russia name weak Fed Cup team

  • By: Andy Schooler
  • Last Updated: October 23 2013, 14:11 BST

Russia will field a much-weakened team in next week's Fed Cup final against Italy.

Alexandra Panova: Russian number 12 will play in the Fed Cup final
Alexandra Panova: Russian number 12 will play in the Fed Cup final

The Russian number 12, Alexandra Panova, is the top-ranked player in their final line-up. She is the world number 138.

Former top-20 star Alisa Kleybanova, currently ranked 186th having slipped down the rankings after a battle with cancer, is also included, along with teenagers Irina Khromacheva (231) and Margarita Gasparyan (317).

Russia's number one player, Maria Sharpaova, is currently injured, while top-30 players Maria Kirilenko, Elena Vesnina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova have all opted to play at the WTA's Tournament of Champions in Sofia instead. A host of other players, including former Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, have also decided not to play.

Reports suggest financial wrangling could be to blame for the lack of leading players in the team. The move could also be seen as a big snub to the Fed Cup's organisers, the International Tennis Federation, who have fallen out with the WTA over rules which means players must play more Fed Cup ties than in the past in order to be eligible for the 2016 Olympics.

Italy, in contrast, will be at full strength and will therefore start red-hot favourites on the clay of Cagliari.

They are led by world number seven Sara Errani, while Roberta Vinci, who had been considering playing in Sofia, is also in the line-up.

Flavia Pennetta and doubles specialist Karin Knapp complete the team which will be looking to give their country a fourth Fed Cup title in eight years. Knapp replaces Francesca Schiavone from the side which beat the Czech Republic in the semi-finals.

Errani, however, will need to prove her fitness having suffered a calf problem during her defeat to Victoria Azarenka at the WTA Championships in Istanbul on Tuesday.

The final takes place on November 2-3.

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