Kirilenko leads off for Russia in Fed Cup

Feb. 8, 2013 at 6:19 AM
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MOSCOW, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Maria Kirilenko, coming off a tournament win, was placed in the leadoff spot for Russia in this weekend's Fed Cup first-round series against Japan.

Russia plays host to the Japanese team for the best-of-five series Saturday and Sunday. The matches are to be played on an indoor hard court in Moscow.

Kirilenko is coming off a hard-court tournament win in Thailand, a result that boosted her to 13th in the world rankings. She is the highest-ranked player on hand for the series in Moscow.

She will go against No. 77-ranked Kimiko Date-Krumm in Saturday's first singles match with Russia's Ekaterina Makarova, 20th in the rankings, taking on No. 57 Ayumi Morita in the second match.

Kirilenko and Morita meet in the first match Sunday followed by Makarova and Date-Krumm. The fifth match in the series calls for Morita and Misaki Doi to team for a doubles match against Russians Margarita Gasparyan and Elena Vesnina.

While the Russians have the higher rankings, the Japanese players are more experienced in Fed Cup play. Kirilenko is just 0-2 in the Fed Cup while Date-Krumm, at 42 a long-time veteran of the competition, is 16-6 in singles matches. Morita is 14-7 and Makarova is 0-1 in the Fed Cup.

This weekend marks the first Fed Cup meeting between Japan and Russia. The Japanese played in the tournament semifinals in 1996 for its best Fed Cup result. Russia has won the event four times -- all from 2004-08 -- and was runner-up in 2011.

The winner of the Japan-Russia series moves to the semifinals April 20-21 against either Serbia or the Slovak Republic.

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