Fed Cup set for San Diego, but will there be a Williams sister involved?
The 2010 Federation Cup final between the United States and Italy will be held at San Diego Sports Arena on Nov. 6 and 7. Italy beat the United States in Italy last year so this is a revenge match and U.S. Coach Mary Joe Fernandez came to the Mercury Insurance Open Tuesday to talk about the rematch.
One of the first questions, as always, was whether she is hopeful either Serena or Venus Williams, the world's first- and third-ranked players, might make themselves available for the finals. They haven't played this year in the first two rounds with the U.S. team that has been anchored by Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Liezel Huber, the world's top-ranked doubles player.
While the Williams sisters (pictured above at Wimbledon) don't necessarily have a burning desire to play in the Federation Cup, they are always enthusiastic about the Olympics, and Olympic rules say that a player must make herself available for Fed Cup play twice during every four-year Olympic cycle and one of those appearances must be in the year before or during the Olympics. Venus and Serena haven't made themselves available for any Fed Cup team since the 2008 Beijing Games.
If either sister played in San Diego they would then need to play once more in 2011 and 2012 to be eligible for the 2012 London Olympics, where the sisters have said they'd like to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles. If neither plays San Diego, they will have to volunteer in each of the next two years.
Fernandez said she expects to speak to the Williams sisters next week. "My pitch is that I'd love to have them play, they're the best in the world, it's a thrill to have a core team be around them." Fernandez said that no matter what, Oudin, Mattek-Sands and Huber would be on the team, though that wouldn't mean they would play. "Melanie looks up to the sisters tremendously," Fernandez said.
Also, Fernandez said, based on the results of Lindsay Davenport's doubles play last week at Stanford, where she and Huber won the title, she would be open to adding Davenport to a team. "That's something I have to consider. But she would have to be willing to be able to play singles if someone got injured."
The Italian team has two top-15 singles players in Flavia Pennetta and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone to anchor their team.
Tickets for the Fed Cup will go on sale Aug. 20. It will be the first Fed Cup final played in the United States in 10 years.
-- Diane Pucin
Photo credit: Felipe Trueba / EPA