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U.S. Fed Cup team: Melanie Oudin but no Venus, Serena Williams so far

April 14, 2010 | 12:46 pm

Oudin_400 U.S. Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez announced a team of Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and doubles specialist Liezel Huber to play Russia April 24 and 25 in the Birmingham, Ala.

There is still one spot open, and Fernandez said she is holding it in the hopes that either Venus or Serena Williams would be available, though that seems unlikely. Serena hasn't played since the Australian Open and withdrew from the Sony Ericsson Key Biscayne event last month with a knee injury. Venus said on Twitter earlier this week that she had taken a hard fall off a bike.

Most of the top Russians, including Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina have also indicated they won't be playing. The matches will be played on a hard court, while the WTA Tour has already moved into the clay court part of the season. That makes a hard transition for players who have already begun honing their games for the French Open next month.

"We are leaving the fourth spot open in case Venus or Serena [Williams] is healthy enough to compete.  The plan is to give them as much time as possible, and we hope to make a decision early next week," Fernandez said Wednesday.

Fed Cup rules require nations to submit an initial roster of three or four players no less than 10 days prior to the start of play. Captains can change one or two players on the final roster that is submitted up to one hour before the draw, which is held the day before matches begin. 

The best-of-five match series begins on April 24 with two singles matches featuring each country’s No. 1 singles player facing the No. 2 singles player from the other nation. The event concludes the next day with “reverse singles,” as the No. 1 players from each country face off followed by the No. 2 singles players' meeting. The second day of competition concludes with a doubles match. 

The Tennis Channel will present daily live coverage beginning at 11 a.m. PDT each day. 

Oudin, 18, will be making her fifth consecutive appearance for the U.S. Fed Cup team. She earned two singles victories against France to help lead the U.S. to a 4-1 victory in the 2010 quarterfinal but has struggled this season to build on the sudden success she had last year when she made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Melanie Oudin plays at Family Circle Cup tennis tournament in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday. Credit: Mic Smith / Associated Press.