Tennis: Rio hopeful Sharapova ready for rare Fed Cup showdown

Tennis: Rio hopeful Sharapova ready for rare Fed Cup showdown
Russia's Maria Sharapova gestures as she addresses a press conference after defeat in her women's singles final match against Serena Williams of the US on day thirteen of the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 31, 2015.

KRAKÓW, Poland - Maria Sharapova claims to be up for the challenge as she returns to the Fed Cup for the first time since 2012 on Saturday in her quest for Olympic gold next year.

"I'm certainly ready to go out and play this weekend", said the world number two who leads Russia against Poland at the Krakow Arena after losing to Serena Williams in last Saturday's Australian Open final.

Sharapova is the overwhelming favourite against Urszula Radwanska, an opponent ranked 133 places below her, in Saturday's second match.

The Russia star added: "I think many things are expected when you are playing an away match might go against you as far as the court, the atmosphere and the crowd.

"But overall I think once the team gets out on the court, no matter who we are facing, we thrive on the challenges. I think the importance is the focus on what we have to do." She has played just three ties for Russia since her 2008 debut and has a 3-1 singles record in the women's team event.

Sharapova claimed silver at the London Olympics in 2012 and has to compete in the Fed Cup to qualify for the 2016 Games and the chance to go for gold in Rio.

The winning country from the World Group opener in Krakow will face either Australia or Germany in the Fed Cup semi-final in April.

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