Russia to take on Serbia Fed Cup team – on ice

Bizarrely, for the first time in history, a Fed Cup tie is to be played on ice. But don't expect to see Team Russia preparing their skates for next weekend's match with Serbia.

The Federations Cup semi-final between Russia and Serbia is being held in Moscow on April 21-22. The arena’s ice rink, famously known for hosting many figure skating and ice hockey events – the most recent being the Legends Cup – has been sealed off and completely covered with soil.

It’s a rarely done technique and a world’s first for such a high caliber tennis event – and ensuring that the cold doesn’t creep through the custom-built court isn’t an easy task.

“It’s about -4C to -5C under our feet right now. We not only have to protect the ice, but also be able to remove everything and make sure the ice is usable within 48 hours! Additionally, clay courts are not usually used indoors, like for example Roland Garros,” explains Oleg Kasatkin, the director of Sportivnie Linii – the company responsible for preparing the arena for competition.

The ice is first covered with special isolation tiles called terra-cover, after which it’s secured by a layer of carpeting and plastic. But because the court is literally being laid over ice, no heavy machinery can be used to cover and press the soil. So the only way to do it is manually.

Both the Russian and international tennis bodies have endorsed the technology, but it’s not really something that was planned or intended.

“It’s just one facility that’s available at the moment, because normally we organize such events at the Olympic stadium, Luzhniki or here. There’s not a wide choice of facilities that can accommodate such an event. Olympiskiy is busy at the moment, Luzhniki is also busy and this facility seems to be very modern and very convenient to arrange the semi-final,” says Kremlin Cup technical director Stanislav Stepanets.

There’s no doubt that the highest quality and standards are being used, so there’s no chance any of the players can use the ice as an excuse for a wrong call. The brand new court is set to be completed by April 17, a full four days before the Federations Cup, but even if there are some unwanted delays, players can rest assured they won’t be feeling the nip come game time.

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