The Fed Cup World Group II action would see powerhouses and top seeds Russia host underdogs Chinese Taipei in the Druzhba Multipurpose Arena at Moscow, with the four-time champions being the obvious favourites in this tie.
After a very disappointing year in Fed Cup competition last year after being on the receiving end of a huge upset against the Netherlands, where they lost 0-3. Russia was relegated to the World Group II for the first time since 1999 as they lost to an inspired Belarusian team which was headlined by Victoria Azarenka.
Chinese Taipei made history last year when they upset Poland by a 4-1 scoreline to reach their first World Group II appearance this year, and they will be hoping to create another huge upset to progress to the World Group play-offs.
The Russian squad
The 2015 Fed Cup finalist would field a very young team for this seemingly easy tie, with Ekaterina Makarova being the only one with experience in Fed Cup play. Makarova had mixed results in Australia to start the season with as she crashed out in the first round of the Brisbane International before reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, beating Dominika Cibulkova along the way.
Anastasia Myskina would have to rely on their up and coming youngsters if they want to reach the World Group playoffs in April as the other three nominated players are all below the age of 20 with no Fed Cup experience. The player who is confirmed to be making her singles debut in the Fed Cup would be Anna Blinkova, who was a former junior world number three. Blinkova won her first ever WTA main draw match just last year in Moscow where she upset Anastasija Sevastova in three sets, saving multiple match points along the way. With a relatively easier opponent, it is definitely a suitable time for Myskina to allow her youngsters to gain match experience.
The other two nominated players are Anna Kalinskaya and Natalia Vikhlyantseva, who were in action at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy just last week. Kalinskaya put up a spirited performance against Daria Gavrilova but unfortunately fell in straight sets, and Vikhlyantseva shocked everyone as she stormed her way through to the semifinals, falling to Kristina Mladenovic in three sets. It has come as a surprise that Vikhlyantseva was not selected for the singles rubber as she was the highest-ranked player of the young trio, and has just come off a great run in her last tournament. Nevertheless, both Kalinskaya and Vikhlyantseva would have a chance to play on the second day of play if Myskina decides to change the line-up.
Chinese Taipei line-up
The Chinese Taipei squad will be relatively weak as star players such as Hsieh Su-Wei, Chan Hao-ching, Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung would not be participating in this important and historic tie. Chang Kai-Chen will headline the team as she would want to create this huge upset despite the Russia squad being stronger. Chang, the 121st ranked player in the world, had a bright start to the season as she qualified for the main draw in Shenzhen before falling to Kristyna Pliskova, but was defeated in the qualifying rounds of both the Australian Open and Taiwan Open.
The other singles player will be Lee Ya-Hsuan, who won the ITF tournament held in Hong Kong in the opening week of the year to start the season on a positive note. Losing to Shelby Rogers in the first round of the Taiwan Open, Lee would look to create a huge upset here in Moscow as she would open against debutant Anna Blinkova on the opening day of action.
The nominated doubles players would be Chan Chin-wei and Lee Ya-hsuan, who would be on double duty this weekend. Hsu Ching-wen would be a reserve player for the tie, despite having a 2-0 record in Fed Cup throughout her young career.
Tie Prediction: Russia 5-0 Chinese Taipei
The opening day of play would see Ekaterina Makarova aim to get Russia off to a great start as she would open against Lee Ya-hsuan, whom she would be a big favourite against. The four-time champion would have Anna Blinkova get her Fed Cup career going as she would face off with Chang Kai-chen, which would definitely be a tight and unpredictable match.
In the reverse singles on Sunday, Chinese Taipei will have Chang going against the former top 10 player in Makarova if the nominations remain the same after the first day of play. With the possibility that one of the team could have sealed up a 3-0 win already, the last two rubbers would be dead rubbers. With the dead rubbers, both teams can send out their youngsters to allow them to gain match experience and get used to the big stage which they will often later appear in in their careers.