Moscow: The Czech Republic, spearheaded by in-form Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova enter the Fed Cup final on Saturday as favourites to overcome Russia to win the women's world team tennis trophy for the first time as an independent state.
Kvitova should enter the event full of confidence after beating five Top 10 players on her way to a morale-boosting win at the season-ending WTA championships in Istanbul to gain the world's number two position.
Kvitova's straight-sets win over Russia’s team leader Vera Zvonareva in the group stages of Istanbul event should also add to the 21-year-old Czech star's self-confidence.
Kvitova will probably get a chance to rubberstamp her superiority over Zvonareva at Moscow's Olympic indoor stadium in what will be their seventh meeting, with the current head-to-head score tied at 3-3.
The Czech team skipper Petr Pala also included Lucie Safarova, who is 24th in the WTA rankings, Lucie Hradecka, 46th in the world and the doubles specialist Kveta Peschke.
"It's going to be a very tight tie as we're facing probably the strongest team in the world. They have so many good players at the top of the rankings," Pala said.
"We are looking forward to a big crowd even if it's not gonna be a home crowd (for us). But our girls like the big stage and we expect the Czech fans are going to be a big part of it.
"It's going to be a very interesting and tight tie to watch."
In Moscow, the Czechs will try to emulate the former Czechoslovakia who won the trophy five times - the last in 1988 while the hosts are looking for their fifth win and first since 2008.
Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev originally teamed up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is 15th in the rankings, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who is 19th in the world, and Maria Kirilenko, 27 in the world, with Zvonareva, who is seventh in the WTA rankings.
But Tarpishchev later complicated the situation including also Elena Vesnina and Yekaterina Makarova into the team, saying he has the right to change two of his players with just two hours remaining before the start of the draw ceremony.
Tarpishchev also said he considered the visitors to be the match favourites.
"Judging by the latest results I'd say the Czech team look to be the favourites as our girls failed to win any trophies in the recent months," he said.
"The specific form of a specific player will be the deciding factor in this match. Everybody is tired now, at the end of the season, everybody suffer from injuries. The strength of both teams is pretty much even.
"It will be even more tough for us to play at home.
"We always want to play attractive tennis and win in front of our home crowd. Anyway we'll do our best to win the cup."
Zvonareva said she was still suffering from pain in her shoulder, which she injured during the last month's Kremlin Cup, adding however that she was hoping to be able to play in the Fed Cup final.
"I'm still bothered with my shoulder injury," Zvonareva said. "I'm currently undergoing physiotherapy and I hope I will be able to play in the final."