Tennis: Sharapova anticipates tough Pe'er tie

"I'm very excited to be playing in the Fed Cup. Tennis is such an individual sport and this is a great opportunity to be part of a team," tells reporters.

sharapova 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
sharapova 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maria Sharapova said on Tuesday that she's extremely excited ahead of her Fed Cup debut against Israel at Ramat Hasharon this weekend and that she's expecting a tough match against local favorite Shahar Pe'er. Speaking for the first time since arriving in Israel on Monday, fresh from her Australian Open triumph, Sharapova also said that had it not been for Russia's Fed Cup tie in Israel she would have taken the week off. "I'm very excited to be playing in the Fed Cup. Tennis is such an individual sport and this is a great opportunity to be part of a team," Sharapova said at a press conference in Herzliya. "I'm happy I was asked to play for my country. This was one of my priorities at the beginning of the year. If there wasn't a Fed Cup tie I would have rested this week and not played any tournament." Of Pe'er, whom she is expected to face on the second day of the tie on Sunday, Sharapova said: "I've played Pe'er a few times before and she's a tough opponent. She will be very excited to play in front of her home crowd and that will be a challenge for us. This is the first time I'll be playing against a hostile crowd." Pe'er, who has lost all three of her career meetings against Sharapova, was in a defiant mood on Tuesday. "This is a very difficult tie. We received the toughest possible opponent. I don't like hearing, however, that we have no chance," Pe'er said. "I have a shot in both of my singles matches. I need to concentrate on my matches and Tzipi Obziler has to concentrate on hers and hopefully we will collect the three points we need for the win. I'm confident that with the support of 5,500 fans we have a chance of winning." However Israel's captain Oded Jacob was being far more cautious than his No. 1 player. "The key for us it to peak over the weekend. Obviously, deep inside, every sportsman wants to win, but we are also very realistic and understand that we are playing a very good team," Jacob said. "This tie is an unprecedented event in Israeli tennis. After many years our Fed Cup team will be playing at home and will be facing a star-studded side. We are making all the needed preparations so that the girls will be in their best shape." Of how Sharapova's Grand Slam victory in Melbourne will affect her play against Israel, Jacob said: "Reaching such a peak means Sharapova will be entering the tie with a lot of confidence. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how much fuel she has left in her tank after the Australian Open." Despite being an integral part of Israel's success, Obziler's contribution is often forgotten. The 34-year-old will be facing two players with much higher rankings this weekend, but has no doubt she can, at the very least, put up a fight against the Russians. "Over the years I have defeated players ranked much higher than me in the Fed Cup," said Obziler, who made her Fed Cup debut 14 years ago. "I may be inferior in ranking to all the other girls, but my career has been on the rise in the last year and I've beaten top-20 players in the past. As a little girl I always dreamt of playing in front of the Israeli crowd and I'm realizing this dream this weekend, so it's impossible to predict what will happen. I've always managed to peak in the Fed Cup and I intend to do so once more."