Maria Sharapova is happy and gearing up to play as the underdog in her first Fed Cup title since 2008 against Czech Republic this weekend.
The Russian team led by the world number four takes on reigning champion Czech Republic who won the title last year behind the heroics of Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova on an indoor hard-court at Prague’s O2 Arena.
Sharapova’s presence in the team is a boost for Russia’s hope of clinching the title and preventing the Czechs from claiming a fourth title in five years, a feat last accomplished by Russia in 2004-08.
Happy to play as the underdogs, Sharapova says, “‘We are coming into this final as the underdogs. We expect a stadium full of Czechs. I’m sure there will be some Russian flags flying around.’
‘As we are the underdogs, our full concentration will be on the opponent ahead of us and the matches ahead of us and not so much about what is going on around us’”.
The teams last met in 2011 when Czech Republic defeated Russia for the first time in Moscow to lift the FA Cup trophy for the first time since 1988.
“It’s definitely a very new experience,” Sharapova said on Wednesday. “I’ve been part of the team on different occasions but never in the final.”
“Having me as part of the team is really exciting, and I hope we can have a good weekend.”
Her previous FA Cup plays were all in the first round and were all wins.
In 2008, she missed the triumphant final in Spain because of a right shoulder injury.
In 2011 because of a left ankle injury, she was not available for the home final loss against the Czechs.
In 2012, Russia didn’t pick her for the semifinals loss to Serbia because she was too busy.
Grasped by injury, Sharapova played her first matches since July at the WTA finals in Singapore last month where she was defeated by world number six Petra Kvitova in the semi-finals.
“Everything I have played after the injuries has been a bonus for my tennis, to see where my health is,” said Sharapova.