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Tennis: Japan optimistic about Russia clash

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Japan are hoping to perform well against Russia in the two nations' first ever meeting in the Fed Cup this weekend but admit that they will have their work cut out to win the spoils in the first-round clash.

"It will be a tough match because Russian team players are very strong," said Japan veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm. "But we need to believe in ourselves and perform at our best.

"Everything is possible in the Federations Cup. Just remember 1996, when we managed to beat Germany's team, which was spearheaded by the brilliant Steffi Graf."

The 42-year-old Date-Krumm said she was also encouraged by her record against Russia's Maria Kirilenko, having beaten her twice in as many meetings.

But she said it was impossible to predict what the outcome would be, as the two teams face off in Moscow.

Japan's team captain Takeshi Murakami said the match would be tough but he had "positive hopes" about it.

Russia's top player Kirilenko, who won last week's tournament in Pattaya, Thailand, to move to 13th in the WTA rankings, said she was pleased with the victory and encouraged by her form so far this season.

"The win in Pattaya boosted my confidence and now I feel on the up," she said. "Of course I felt some tiredness but it's a pleasant tiredness after the victory in the final."

Russia captain Shamil Tarpishchev said he had some concerns about Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova's shoulder injury, which has ruled her out of selection for Japan match -- and said it was unclear how long she would be on the sidelines.

"Everything depends on medics now," he added.

Tarpishchev has chosen Margarita Gasparyan, who is 226 in the WTA rankings, to replace Pavlyuchenkova in his squad.

Japan have never won the Fed Cup, although they were semi-finalists in 1996. They won promotion to the competition's top tier last year for the first time since 2007.

Russia have been champions four times (in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008). This year is the country's 15th straight year in the elite group.

Saturday

Maria Kirilenko (RUS) v Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN)

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Ayumi Morita (JPN)

Sunday

Maria Kirilenko (RUS) v Ayumi Morita (JPN)

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) v Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN)

Elena Vesnina/Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) v Ayumi Morita/Misaki Doi (JPN)

af/phz

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130208/tennis-japan-optimistic-about-russia-clash-0