Russia struggling for Fed Cup candidates; top players choose Sofia

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Russian Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpischev continues to struggle to field a strong team for next week’s Fed Cup final against Italy as three of his top players—Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Maria Kirilenko, and Elena Vesnina—have chosen to play the WTA Tournament of Champions in Sofia, which also takes place next week.

Former No. 1 Maria Sharapova is out with an injury, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova have both said they prefer not to play Fed Cup, and Ekaterina Makarova is dealing with a right wrist injury that she believes will prevent her from competing. Makarova and Petrova are both playing the WTA Championships this week in doubles.

Tarpischev asked Alisa Kleybanova and teens Daria Gavrilova, Margarita Gasparyan, and Irina Khromacheva to play, but Gavrilova declined as she hasn't been getting enough support from the Russian Federation, and Kleybanova, who is returning from Hodgkin's lymphoma, told she is undecided because of the travel and the fact the Fed Cup final will be staged on outdoor clay.

No. 138 Alexandra Panova has also reportedly been asked to play.

At this point, Russia—which has won the Fed Cup final on for occasions and has six players inside the Top 100—has received no commitments from any player inside the Top 120.

Tarpischev denied reports that the players wouldn’t commit because they aren’t being properly financially compensated, saying if they won the Fed Cup, the Federation would pay them $100,000 each. Other reports say the opposite, and Vesnina told that being able to gain more ranking points in Sofia is also a factor.

The final team announcements are expected on Wednesday.

For Italy, Roberta Vinci has decided to play the final rather than playing Sofia. The eight-player field includes Vesnina, Kirilenko, Pavlyuchenkova, Simona Halep, Alize Cornet, Samantha Stosur, and wild cards Ana Ivanovic and Tsvetana Pironkova. Caroline Wozniacki, who reached the Sofia final last year, turned down an invitation to play.

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