Favourites Russia in confident mood for Fed Cup final

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MOSCOW, Sep 14 (Reuters) World number two Svetlana Kuznetsova will power Russia's bid for their third Fed Cup title when they take on last year's surprise winners Italy in this weekend's final in Moscow.

Even without world number four Maria Sharapova, who is nursing a shoulder injury, the Russians, who boast three players in the world top 10, are still the overwhelming favourites to beat Italy, who are led by world number 25 Francesca Schiavone.

''I think it's all depends on us, how we play,'' US Open finalist Kuznetsova, who meets Italy number two Mara Santangelo in the second singles rubber tomorrow, told reporters following today's draw.

''I would give us 70 percent chance to win with only 30 for Italy.'' Chakvetadze, who last week reached her first grand slam semi-final at Flushing Meadows, faces Schiavone in tomorrow's opener before the two reverse singles matches are played on Sunday, followed by the doubles.

Russia captain Shamil Tarpishchev is gunning for a unique double by trying to win the Fed and Davis Cups in the same year.

Italy number one Schiavone said she was cherishing the underdog role.

''I think we don't have many chances, that is true,'' Schiavone, the heroine of Italy's 3-2 semi-final victory over France in July, told Reuters.

''But we believe in ourselves, we have a good team, we are focused and will try to win,'' added the Italian who won all three of her matches against the French, including a straight-sets victory over former world number one Amelie Mauresmo.

Italy won their first Fed Cup title last year when they beat heavy favourites Belgium 3-2 in the final after Justine Henin was forced to withdraw through injury from the deciding doubles.

Reuters PDS RS2055

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