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Canada to host Czech Republic in Quebec City for Fed Cup tie in February

10/09/2014 12:24 EDT | Updated 12/09/2014 05:59 EST
Facing the powerful Czech Republic in the Fed Cup is a tall order for the Canadian women's tennis squad and its top player Eugenie Bouchard.

Bouchard is in for another match against the player who has become her nemesis, Petra Kvitova, if both opt to play for their respective countries when they meet Feb. 7-8 in Quebec City.

Canada will host the Czech Republic on the campus of Laval University for the Fed Cup World Group I tie, Tennis Canada announced Thursday. Currently eighth in the Fed Cup rankings, Canada defeated Slovakia in a playoff tie in April at the same 3,000-seat venue.

Bouchard is 0-3 against Kvitova, including losses in the finals at Wimbledon in June and the Wuhan Open on Sept. 27.

"They played three times and she never won a set from her," Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau said on a conference call. "They'll be playing indoors, but that's also good for Kvitova.

"She's a powerful player with a big, left-handed serve. It's tough, but Genie is young and improving and she'll be comfortable in that atmosphere. One thing is she'll have to be the initiator and the aggressor. If Kvitova takes control, she's tough to stop."

Canadian team members include Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., Ottawa doubles ace Gabriela Dabrowski, Toronto's Sharon Fichman and Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que.

However Wozniak, who reached a career high ranking of 21st in the world before suffering a spate of injuries in recent years, is unlikely to be ready to return from recent shoulder surgery in time to play.

A likely replacement would be 17-year-old Francoise Abanda of Montreal, currently ranked 175th in singles, or Toronto's Heidi El Tabakh, ranked 200th.

With Kvitova and Lucie Safarova, the Czechs are the top-ranked team in the world. They won the Fed Cup in 2011 and 2012 and will play for this year's title in December against Germany.

The Czechs have a perfect 5-0 record against Canada in Fed Cup play. Their last meeting came in 2002.

"They're probably the toughest challenge with their lineup and their history," said Bruneau. "But we will have the advantage of playing in Canada.

"Yes, they will be the favourites, but with the tie played here, anything can happen."

Ticket prices have been reduced to try to ensure a full house of boisterous Canada fans at Laval's PEPS facility.

"We want it to be crazy," said Tennis Canada vice-president Eugene Lapierre.

He added that Quebec City was chosen over bids from other cities because the team did well there last time and the team liked the facilities and how the event was run.

Rosters for both teams will be announced in January.

The winner will advance to the Fed Cup semifinals and keep a place in World Group I for 2016. The loser will play a World Group I playoff to remain among the top eight countries in the world.

It falls at an inconvenient time for both teams, amid a busy schedule of tournaments in Australia and Asia. The Australian Open ends Jan. 26. Top players will fly out after the Fed Cup for tournaments in Dubai and Doha.

But Bruneau said Bouchard, who reached a career high ranking of sixth this week, has always been enthusiastic about playing Fed Cup, even when it meant marathon flights to places like Colombia and Ukraine.

"Eugenie did the same last year," said Bruneau. "I'm spoiled because, since I've been captain, I've never had a player refuse to play Fed Cup. The girls are very patriotic."

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