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By Chris Oddo | Friday February 5, 2016

Team Russia announced that Maria Sharapova will give way to Ekaterina Makarova and Svetlana Kuznetsova when their Fed Cup tie with the Netherlands gets underway in Moscow. Russia will still go in as the heavy favorite, as its other three players are all ranked inside the top-100 while nobody on the Netherlands squad currently is.

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“We were hoping Maria would feel well, but her shoulder was not really ready to play singles, so that’s why we decided not to put her in the singles,” said Russia’s Fed Cup captain Anastasia Myskina. According to the Fed Cup’s site, Sharapova told reporters she’d likely be “taking it easy” until Indian Wells in March.

Makarova will open with world No. 106 Kiki Bertens on Saturday, followed by Kuznetsova vs. Richel Hogenkamp.

The Dutch are making their first World Group appearance since 1998.

Either two-time defending champion Czech Republic or Italy has won the event in the last seven years.

In other World Group ties, defending champion Czech Republic will visit Romania for a star-studded tie that will feature Simona Halep vs. Petra Kvitova in its opening match on Saturday.

Germany will host Switzerland in another blockbuster battle. Andrea Petkovic will open with Belinda Bencic in Saturday’s first rubber, with Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber facing Timea Bacsinszky in the second.

Italy will travel to Marseille to face the French with Kristina Mladenovic taking on Sara Errani in the first rubber and Caroline Garcia facing Camila Giorgi in the second.

The winners of each tie will go on to play the semis while the losers will face off in the playoffs against the winners of this weekend’s World Group II ties.

Those are (home teams listed first):

Slovakia vs. Australia
Canada vs. Belarus
U.S.A. vs. Poland
Serbia vs. Spain


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