Fed Cup: Serbia makes history in first semifinal showdown

    Story highlights

    • Serbia to face Russia in their first ever Fed Cup semifinal
    • Serb Ana Ivanovic, ranked 15, will lead campaign against injury-hit Russia
    • The former world No. 1 is hoping to make a comeback after career slump
    • Czech Republic will face Italy in opposing semifinal, with Petra Kvitova hoping to return to form
    Former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic is hoping to lead Serbia to a historic first Fed Cup final in Moscow this weekend.
    The Serbian team, who have never reached the last four until this season, will face a Russian side who have won the tournament four times. But, crucially, they will be without top stars Maria Sharapova and Vera Zvonareva.
    Armed with a stellar line-up including Ivanovic and fellow former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic, the Serbs are hoping to deliver the biggest upset of the tournament to injury-hit Russia.
    "For all of us and for our country it means a lot," team captain Dejan Vranes said at the draw on Thursday.
    "It's the first time (in the semifinals) after many years. We started this journey five years ago in the Europe/Africa Group 1 in Plovdiv and after five years we're finally in the semifinals. Our plan is just to fight until the last point -- we'll see what happens."
    Serbia, who have been beaten by Russia in their last three Fed Cup meetings, is in its strongest position yet to finally claim a victory.
    Ivanovic has suffered a slump in form since winning the 2008 French Open, but has shown encouraging signs this year rising seven places in the rankings to 15th.
    The 24-year-old reached the fourth-round of the Australian Open in January and the semifinal in Indian Wells in March.
    "We have had a good team for a while but we never seem to come together and actually go for it," she said on the official Fed Cup website.
    "This is the first time we're in the semifinals so it's very thrilling of course. It makes it that much harder with the Olympics of course and everything else this year and it seems like a lot of things are going on.
    "The semifinal is just one step from the final and maybe a title -- something I would love to have next to my name."
    Russia should have been the formidable favourite in the historic showdown, taking the title four times in the last decade.
    In the absence of world No.2 Sharapova and 10th-ranked Zvonareva, Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev has turned to two-time grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, as well as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina.
    In the other semifinal reigning champions the Czech Republic take on three-time winners Italy.
    World No. 3 Petra Kvitova is expected to lead the home side in Ostrava as she bounces back from illness and injury which have plagued her for the past two months.
    The 2011 Wimbledon champion will be joined by 23rd-ranked Lucie Safarova, and doubles partners Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.
    The Italians, led by 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavore and world No.22 Flavia Pennetta have won four of their last seven meetings.