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Wozniak should enjoy home-court advantage during Fed Cup tie with Serbia

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MONTREAL - Tennis star Aleksandra Wozniak feeds off the roar of the crowd.

Wozniak will certainly have the home-court advantage Saturday and Sunday when Canada faces Serbia in the first round of their World Group II Fed Cup tie at the Claude-Robillard Sports Complex.

Wozniak, a Montreal native now living in Blainville, Que., says she's able to transform energy from the fans into success on the court.

"I've always loved playing at home, with fans screaming your name, encouraging you," said Wozniak, who's won more games (37) representing Canada at the Fed Cup than any other player. "I love it.

"You just have to prepare yourself mentally. Playing at home is always memorable."

Wozniak has been bothered by a recurring shoulder injury the past two years and has seen her world ranking slip as a result. In 2009, the Canadian was ranked No. 21 on the WTA Tour. She's currently sitting at No. 274.

But Wozniak is preparing a comeback. She's feeling healthy and is excited to step back on to the court.

"The crowd gives us energy," she said. "When it's a tough match, when there's a tough situation, you always want to surpass yourself."

Eugenie Bouchard, who created a buzz last month by reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open, will join Wozniak on the court.

The 19-year-old Montreal native became the first Canadian woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in 20 years. But eventual tournament champion Li Na of China ended Bouchard's impressive run with a straight-sets win.

Bouchard had a very vocal group of supporters overseas, affectionately dubbed the "Genie Army." But she's expecting more rabid support from the home-town fans.

"I love the atmosphere," said Bouchard. "That's why we're playing tennis, for the fans.

"It's better for us if they're getting into it. It creates a better atmosphere. I love playing in front of a crowd."

And that crowd will be a big one, says Eugene Lapierre of Tennis Canada. As of Friday afternoon, Lapierre said 3,800 of the 4,000 available tickets had been sold and he was expecting a full house Saturday

Joining Bouchard (ranked No. 19 in the world) and Wozniak on the Canadian team will be Toronto's Sharon Fichman (ranked No. 112) and Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski (No. 224).

Two singles matches will be played Saturday and Sunday, with the tie culminating with a doubles contest.

The Serbian team will be minus such established stars as Jelena Jankovic (ranked eights in the world) and Ana Ivanovic (No. 12). The squad will consist of Vesna Dolonc (ranked No. 117), Jovana Jaksic (No. 149), Aleksandra Krunic (No. 152) and Nina Stojanovic (unranked).

However, Canadian team captain Sylvain Bruneau isn't taking the Serbs for granted.

"These girls will know what shoes they need to fill and they're going to give everything they have," said Bruneau, who has been Canada's captain since 2010. "I expect that.

"They're going to come here and show that even if their top players are not there, they are there. We need to be ready for this."

Wozniak will face Dolonc in the opening singles match Saturday. Wozniak beat Dolonc in straight sets in their only other encounter, that coming in the first round of last year's U.S. Open.

"She fights hard, she doesn't give up, fights for every point," Wozniak said of Dolonc. "I'll have to start strong and stay concentrated throughout."

Bouchard will face the 20-year-old Jaksic in the other singles contest. Jaksic will be making her Fed Cup debut.

Jaksic and Bouchard have never faced each other on the court.

"There is no better feeling than playing for your country, wearing its colours," said Jaksic. "I'm going to go out on the court and do my best.

"The team is playing well, the atmosphere is perfect, and I'm having a great time."

Bouchard will play Dolonc on Sunday, with Wozniak then facing Jaksic. Fichman and Dabrowski will team up in doubles against Krunic and Stojanovic.

The winner of the tie will have the opportunity to advance from the World Group II into the World Group, which includes the world's eight best teams.

Canada will also have the chance to avenge a 3-2 road loss to Serbia in a 2011 Group II that ultimately relegated the Canadians to a lower division. Bouchard is confident that won't happen this time around.

"We have the best players in Canada right here," she said. "This is as good as it's going to get.

"We have great chemistry off the court, and we have that on the court as well."

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