Elena Vesnina says that if Russia's tennis federation been more organized, it might have a stronger team heading into next week's Fed Cup final against Italy. None of Russia’s top 11 players will be playing the in Sardinia for a variety reasons.
Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev named 138th-ranked Alexandra Panova, No. 186 Alisa Kleybanova, No. 231 Irina Khromacheva, and No. 317 Margarita Gasparyan to his team. Vesnina and compatriots Maria Kirilenko and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova have chosen to play the WTA Tournament of Champions in Sofia, which also takes place next week.
“I can say one thing that our federation knew in advance that me, Kirilenko and Pavlyuchenkova knew we were going to play Sofia because we won tournaments in January and February,” Vesnina told TENNIS.com. “Me and Nastya told Tarpischev in the summer that we are thinking of playing Sofia. I told him that it’s going to be my choice, you have to find someone else just in case and he didn't do it. He started to do it during the Kremlin Cup [last week]. That's the mistake he did.”
Ekaterina Makarova, who is playing doubles with Vesnina in Istanbul and was the hero of Russia’s wins over Japan and the Slovak Republic, is contending with a right wrist injury and also declined an invitation to play. Vesnina, Kirilenko, and Pavlyuchenkova also played in the Fed Cup semifinals. Makarova was not given the option of playing only doubles in the Fed Cup final.
“In Fed Cup it’s different, you give more than in other matches. When we won against Slovakia I was really excited to go to Italy because they are a big team and we played so many times, it could have been a good match,” Makarova told TENNIS.com. “But I’m not ready for singles. I wished to play and I love to play for my team because I played two [ties] this year and it was great results, but with my wrist I can’t. I just don't want to go and sit there.”
Both Makarova and veteran Nadia Petrova believe that having the 11 top players all not show up for the final is coincidental.
“It’s a strange situation because three girls qualified for Sofia and we got to the final of Fed Cup at the same time,” Makarova said. “I don't know why that would happen in one year. Maybe with the calendar we should make a change. Move Fed Cup somewhere, maybe even earlier. It's a really bad situation and we’re not feeling comfortable about this.”
Former Top 5 player Petrova, who has been nursing an injury but is competing at the WTA Championships with Katarina Srebotnik, said she was not asked to play.
“I didn't get a phone call, nobody contacted me,” she said. “I did tell [Tarpischev earlier this year] I wasn’t planning to play as I have a different focus now and limited time left. For the older players it’s more a choice to take some time off and play for themselves. We’ve already played so many years for the federation and the older you get it becomes more physically difficult."
Petrova agreed with Makarova that calendar change must occur for either the Tournament of Champions or the Fed Cup final so that the conflict doesn't occur again.
“You cannot have two big championships at the same time,” she said.
Vesnina says that the young Russian team does have an outside chance to pull off an upset.
“It's a big challenge, but we are pretty sure they will fight and give their best,” she said.