US Hosts Italy In Fed Cup Final
Published November 05, 2010 12:00
SAN DIEGO, CA, USA - This weekend, for the second year in a row, the United States and Italy will do battle for the title of Fed Cup champion.
Twelve months ago, Italy won the prestigious international team competition 4-0 at home on clay in a rather damp Reggio Calabria but this time the Americans - bidding to lift the trophy for the first time in 10 years - hope to capitalize on the home advantage provided by the hardcourt in the San Diego Arena.
In the absence of the recuperating-from-injury Williams sisters, US team captain Mary Joe Fernandez has selected world No.71 Bethanie Mattek-Sands and 114th-ranked Coco Vandeweghe as her singles players, with Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber down for doubles duty at the indoor venue.
After a strong end to her season Mattek-Sands recently overtook Oudin to be the highest-ranked American after Serena and Venus, while Vandeweghe made her WTA breakthrough at the San Diego tour event in August, when she beat Vera Zvonareva on her way to the quarterfinals. The 18-year-old, who lives locally, becomes the first player to make her Fed Cup debut in a final since 1995.
"I'm excited to be able to represent my country," said Vandeweghe, who faces Italian No.1 Schiavone in the opening rubber on Saturday. "It's been a big dream of mine and it's a big deal in my family. My mother was an Olympian. So just to be able to wear the USA flag proud in this Fed Cup, whether I play or not, is a great experience for me."
After a standout year, the Italians loom even larger than the last time these sides met. In fact, all of the Italian players are ranked higher than Mattek-Sands.
Schiavone is the reigning French Open champion and a Top 10 fixture at No.7, while the country's No.2 singles player, Flavia Pennetta, just won doubles at the WTA Championships with Gisela Dulko. World No.23 Pennetta and Mattek-Sands face off in the second rubber on Saturday, while in the doubles Huber and Oudin tackle Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci - herself coming off a singles title at Luxembourg - after Sunday's reverse singles.
"We've seen upsets in the past," said Fernandez, acknowledging the visitors' status as favorites. "They're experienced, accomplished and are a great team, but if we execute our game plan and play well then we can win."
The US has won the Fed Cup a record 17 times, but not since 2000. Through to the final for the fifth year in a row, Italy has won twice. In last April's semifinals, the Italians beat the Czech Republic while the Americans ousted Russia. The US owns a 9-1 head-to-head lead over Italy.