Russia counting on Sharapova, Kuznetsova in Fed Cup

Russia's Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev said Tuesday he is still hopeful that top players -- Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova -- will be available for April's Fed Cup semi-final against Slovakia.

"I need to study the playing schedules of our girls before starting to plan the line-up for the match with Slovakia," Sport Express daily quoted Tarpishchev as saying.

"Of course Sharapova would strengthen our team a great deal, but we should never forget about her personal interests. We must try to minimise any losses for those who are battling for the top places in the rankings."

Russia's top player Sharapova has played just three Fed Cup ties in her career so far, making her debut in 2008 to help satisfy Olympic Games qualification criteria.

After playing again in 2011, she also featured in the quarter-final win over Spain in 2012 in the run-up to the London Games.

Tarpishchev said that Sharapova had expressed her desire to play for Russia in this season's Fed Cup campaign, and that he had been keen to call her into his squad for the later stages of the competition.

"If Masha (Sharapova) has a relatively simple tournament schedule ahead without a series of top-class events in America we will call on her," he said.

"But otherwise the trans-Atlantic flights and time zone changes can seriously harden the battle for the top spot in the WTA rankings. We're not going make her life even tougher."

Tarpishchev said he had an agreement with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Vera Zvonareva, who had both said they were available to play for Russia this season, adding that he could also call Kuznetsova into his team if need be.

"It was very important for Svetlana (Kuznetsova) to improve her individual ranking at the beginning of the season and she asked me to release her from playing against Japan," Tarpishchev said. "She wants to be in the world's elite and we definitely respect her desire."

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