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Abanda, Bengu to play opening singles match in Canada-Romania Fed Cup tie

04/17/2015 12:47 EDT | Updated 07/03/2015 07:59 EDT
MONTREAL - There's plenty for captain Sylvain Bruneau to like about Canada's Fed Cup tie against Romania.

Canada will have both home-court advantage and its top player, Eugenie Bouchard, in tow. In February Bouchard declined an invitation to play for the Canadian squad in its first-ever World Group appearance.

That allowed the 2014 Fed Cup-champion Czech Republic to capture a 4-0 victory even though top players Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova didn't play.

Canada's Fed Cup fortunes took a definite turn for the better Sunday when Bouchard announced she'd play against the short-handed Romanians, who'll be without their top player, world No. 3 Simona Halep. But Bruneau says Romania still poses a serious threat.

"They have depth and their players are motivated to propel the team into the World Group for the first time in a long time," Bruneau said. "We want to make sure we are well prepared and to make the most of the advantage of playing at home.

"We will be ready for big battles."

Bouchard, ranked seventh in the world, echoed her captain's sentiments.

"For us it (Halep's absence) is a great thing," Bouchard said. "I know the team is still very strong and they have a lot of great players."

The best-of-five tie begins Saturday at Maurice Richard Arena with two singles matches. Montreal's Francoise Abanda faces Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu in the opening contest before Bouchard, of Westmount, Que., takes on Alexandra Dulgheru.

On Sunday, Bouchard will play Begu while Abanda faces Dulgheru in singles before Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski and Toronto's Sharon Fichman take on Andreea Mitu and Raluca Olaru in doubles.

Canada will be looking to maintain its position in the elite eight-team World Group for 2016.

Last year, Bouchard helped Canada reach the World Group for the first time ever. She won both of her matches against Serbia in February, losing just four games in total. Then in April, the 21-year-old once again earned two valuable points against Slovakia.

"Until last February I played in all Fed Cup (ties) I was invited to," Bouchard said earlier this week. "(I'm) always proud to represent my country.

"I know I have to play another time in 2015 or 2016 to be eligible to participate in the Olympics. That was part of my decision."

Bruneau is ecstatic to have Bouchard back on the squad.

"We are very happy we'll be able to count on Eugenie for this Fed Cup tie," Bruneau said. "She's a great leader and the cornerstone of our team.

"Having our No. 1 player and home-court advantage really helped us in 2014."

Abanda will make her second Fed Cup appearance. The 18-year-old is currently ranked No. 243 in the world and won her first Challenger title last year.

Fichman, ranked No. 206, boasts a 22-9 Fed Cup record since making her debut in '05. She was unable to play in Canada's last tie due to injury.

Dabrowski is Canada's top doubles player with a No. 42 world ranking. She won her second career WTA doubles title last month in Monterrey, Calif., with partner Alicja Rosolska of Poland.

This will be Dabrowski's sixth Fed Cup appearance and she's also the Canadian team's second-highest ranked singles player at No. 177.

Romania is attempting to qualify for the World Group for the first time since 1992. Begu is the team's highest-ranked player (No. 36) ahead of Dulgheru (No. 62), Mitu (No. 107) and Olaru (No. 840).

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