CAGLIARI, Italy—Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev makes a surprising decision by selecting 18-year-old Irina Khromacheva to face off against Italian No. 1 Sara Errani on the opening day of the Fed Cup final. It was presumed that Tarpischev would pick former Top 15 player Alisa Kleybanova for singles, but in what he described as a “tactical” move, Tarpischev instead picked the inexperienced Khromacheva.
“It's the final of Fed Cup so everything is possible,” Khromacheva said. “I have one more day to go, but I’m not nervous at all.”
Russia’s top player in the tie, world No. 136 Alexandra Panova, will kick off the tie against Italian No. 2 Roberta Vinci. The final is being held at the Tennis Club Cagliari in Sardinia.
Tarpischev, who has led the Russian Fed Cup team to four titles and will captain his 51st tie, is renowned for his frequent and often surprising line-up switches. He said one of the reasons behind the move was because the court is playing heavy. It rained in Sardinia on Friday night and Saturday morning.
Kleybanova is the only member of the team to have cracked the Top 15 in her career, but she is unsure how her body will hold up. She is recovering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and has not played a match on outdoor red clay since May 2011.
Had Tarpischev picked Kleybanova for Saturday, she would have had to face former Roland Garros finalist Errani, then come back on Sunday to play Vinci and possibly play the deciding doubles.
Tarpischev appears to be targeting Vinci as the player whom both Panova and a fresh Kleybanova can defeat. Panova said she knows how to play Vinci, but while she has had reasonable success on Challengers this year, she has only won three WTA-level matches in 2013, the last coming when she reached the quarterfinals of Cali (Colombia) in February.
“I’m calm and ready and I know how to play her,” Panova said. “[The keys are to] come close to the ball and put in into the open court.”
Errani said that she has never seen former Wimbledon junior finalist Khromacheva play. Tarpischev may be hoping that Khromacheva—who has won a Challenger on clay before—can extend Errani so that if the match comes down to the Sunday doubles, the Italian might be tired.