Fed Cup champs Czech Republic favourites, says Sharapova

AFP

Maria Sharapova believes Russia will head into this weekend's Fed Cup final against defending champions and hosts the Czech Republic as underdogs.

World number four Sharapova has never competed at this stage of the premier international team competition in women's tennis, despite her lengthy list of achievements, having failed to surpass the first round previously.

Sharapova - a five-time grand slam winner - acknowledged the Czech crowd will not be supporting her when she dons the Russian colours at the O2 arena in Prague, starting on Saturday, and feels the atmosphere could play a key role in the outcome.

"We are going into this final as underdogs," said the 28-year-old.

"We expect a stadium full of Czechs – I’m sure there will be some Russian flags flying around – but there will be more Czechs in the stadium than Russians.

"Our full concentration will be on what is ahead of us and not on what’s going on around us."

Sharapova lines up alongside Ekaterina Makarova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina.

Four-time victors Russia, captained by Anastasia Myskina, face a tough task against the Czechs.

Petr Pala's side are the second most successful Fed Cup nation, having won 14 straight live rubbers and five consecutive ties ahead of this year's tournament.

Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova will lead the way for the Czechs and they are joined by Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova.