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The 2013 Fed Cup World Group kicks off this Saturday with a powerful Russian team taking on Japan in Moscow and the United States all prepared to meet the Italian challenge on the home court of the Mediterranean country.
Both Sharapova and Williams were part of the 2012 edition of the prestigious tournament. While the 25-year-old Sharapova was left out of the Russian squad, Serena had to pull out of her country’s team due to back injury.
The absence of these star players mean that the number of players who are within the top ten and participating in the four World Group one ties has been reduced to three. The Italians are likely to field world No.7 Sara Errani and number sixteen Roberta Vinci for the singles and doubles event against the 17-time champions US in the Italian city of Rimini. The European country last beat the Americans in the 2009 and 2010 finals.
Meanwhile the US, already under the constraint of not having 15-time Grand Slam Champion Serena in their team, will be led by world No. 21 Varvara Lepchencko and will also miss the rising youngster Sloane Stephens- the 2013 Australian Open semi-finalist.
While the rivalry between the two teams dates to the first edition of the Fed Cup in 1963, the winner of the current stand off will move in the semifinals to be played in April against the winner of Czech Republic and Australia.
But for the Russians featuring thirteen rank Maria Kirilenko, number 20 Ekaterina Makarova, 31st ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and 32 ranked Elena Vesnina, Japan will not prove to be too much of a trouble in spite of Sharapova not being included in the team as the rankings of all its members are higher than that of who the Asian country has put in including world no 57 Ayumi Morita.
The winner of the matchup will move to the semifinals that will be played in April against the winner of Serbia and Slovakia.
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