Two former world No 1 players are set to clash in the Fed Cup first round as holders the Czech Republic take on Romania on February 9-10, team nominations showed on Wednesday.
World No 5 Karolina Pliskova will spearhead the Czech Republic, while third-ranked Simona Halep is due to lead the Romanian team.
Pliskova was the world No 1 for seven weeks in 2017, while Halep led the rankings for a total of 48 weeks before being replaced by Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka on Monday.
“Simona Halep is coming, so it’s going to be a big battle,” Pliskova wrote on her website.
Pliskova, an Australian Open semi-finalist, will team up with 38th-ranked Katerina Siniakova, the world number one for doubles, 73rd-ranked teenager Marketa Vondrousova and doubles specialist Barbora Krejcikova.
Siniakova emerged as an unexpected team leader in last year’s final when she won both her singles to hand the Czechs a 3-0 win against the United States and their sixth Fed Cup title out of the last eight editions.
“I’m glad we have a very strong team,” said Czech captain Petr Pala, who will miss Australian Open finalist and world number two Petra Kvitova for the tie in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava.
“Petra Kvitova has excused herself and I understand and respect this, considering her programme,” Pala added.
Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion from 2011 and 2014, is defending last year’s titles from St Petersburg this week and Doha the week after the Fed Cup tie.
Besides Halep, Romanian captain Florin Segarceanu has called up 28th-ranked Mihaela Buzarnescu, Irina-Camelia Begu (71), Ana Bogdan (99) and Monica Niculescu (100), according to the Fed Cup website.
“It will be terribly tough, the Romanian team is strong and the chances are 50-50,” said Pala.
In their last head-to-head encounter, the Czechs beat Romania in Cluj 3-2 in the first round in 2016.