Israel gears up for Czech tie in Fed Cup

Shahar Pe'er faces the Czech's No. 2 player Petra Kviova in Saturday's first match at Ramat Hasharon.

Shahar Peer 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Shahar Peer 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Shahar Pe'er will get Israel's Fed Cup World Group playoff encounter against the Czech Republic underway on Saturday and for a fourth straight tie will be looking to give the national team a crucial early lead. Pe'er, who is ranked No. 18 in the world, faces the Czech's No. 2 player Petra Kvitova (100) in Saturday's first match at Ramat Hasharon, with Tzipi Obziler (98) playing Czech No. 1 Lucie Safarova (40) in the second match. The reverse singles will be played on Sunday and a doubles match will decide the encounter should the score be tied at 2-2 after the singles matches. "I prefer to go on court first. We've been lucky with the draw and hopefully that luck won't desert us in the matches. I usually win when I start so I hope that continues," said Pe'er, who had won 10 straight singles matches in the Fed Cup before losing to Maria Sharapova in the first round of the World Group earlier this year. "My form now is much better than it was before the Russia tie. We need to give our all and we'll have a good chance of winning," she added. The Czechs defeated Slovakia 3-2 to advance to the World Group playoffs for a fourth successive year and will be looking to progress to the World Group for the first time since 2004. The team, which is captained by Petr Pala, came to Israel without its best player Nicole Vaidisova and its No. 2 player Kvitova is only the sixth best ranked Czech player. "We came with three very good singles players and every one of them can play," Pala said. "Safarova is a very experienced player, so I'm confident that playing second on Saturday will not affect her." Russia's celebrated players made sure that the Canada Stadium in Ramat Hasharon was sold-out in February, but ticket sales for this weekend's tie are languishing and Obziler is urging Israeli fans to pack the stadium. "I really hope that the fans come because we need them. The fans helped me out a lot last time and I'm sure they will play an important role once more this weekend," Obziler said. Unlike its previous tie in which no one expected Israel to win, this weekend the national team has an excellent chance of triumphing and captain Oded Jacob is in a confident mood. "Anything can happen over the two days. Every match will be tight and the tie is very balanced," Jacob said. "I think that the home-court advantage could be crucial and that the winner of the tie will eventually be the team which wants it more."