Captain Amelie Mauresmo insisted France would not be overawed by defending champions the Czech Republic when the two sides meet in the Fed Cup final in Strasbourg this weekend.
The Czechs, champions in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015, can boast world number six Karolina Pliskova, the US Open runner-up this year, and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, currently at 11 in the rankings.
The French — winners in 1997 and 2003 — are the underdogs with Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, ranked 23rd and 42nd in the world.
“It’s going to be tough, our rivals are on paper superior,” admitted Mauresmo, who won as a player in 2003. “If we look at the rankings we can go home. It’s up to our girls to lift their game!”
Mladenovic will get the ball rolling against Pliskova with Garcia then challenging in-form Kvitova.
The French will be counting on home support at the 6,000-seater Rhenus Sport Arena to ensure that the challenge is not over after the three singles as in the semi-finals last year in Ostrava.
“They are favourites, but a small door will open. We will have to be enterprising to take the upper hand,” said Garcia.
“It never becomes a habit,” said Czech captain Petr Pala as his side target a fifth title in six years.
“I’m really happy to be playing another final and hopefully with a good result.
“For some it’s easier to play on front of a home crowd, but I know the girls can play on front of any crowd. We can expect a noisy atmosphere but we have played many times away.”
Draw for this weekend’s Fed Cup final between France and the Czech Republic on Friday (all times GMT):
Saturday (from 1300)
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
Caroline Garcia (FRA) v Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Sunday (from 1230)
Caroline Garcia (FRA) v Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Lucie Hradecka/Barbora Strycova (CZE)
© 2016 AFP
Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20161111-mauresmo-confident-france-can-topple-czech-champions