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Fed Cup team: Subtract Venus and Serena Williams, add Oudin, Vandeweghe

October 26, 2010 |  2:18 pm

Oudin_300 Mary Joe Fernandez confirmed what was expected Tuesday. When the United States tries to upset defending champion Italy on Nov. 6 and 7 in the Federation Cup finals in San Diego, her team will be made up of Melanie Oudin, rising star CoCo Vandeweghe, top-ranked doubles player Liezel Huber and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who loves wearing knee-high tube socks, although they can't disguise her versatility as both a singles and doubles point scorer in the team format.

Until last week, Fernandez had held out hope that Serena Williams might tiptoe back onto the court after being out since Wimbledon because of a foot injury. But Williams announced that she needed a second surgery on the foot to repair damage done when she stepped on glass in a German restaurant, and Venus Williams already had put an end to her season by having minor surgery on a troublesome knee. So Fernandez chose Vandeweghe, whose ranking is now at 115.

Fedcup_300 Although other Americans have a better ranking (Vania King is 86, Jill Craybas is 100), Fernandez cited Vandeweghe's stellar late-season play and her evolving game.

"Her game has come a long way," Fernandez said. "She's developed a big game. She has a great style, big serve, heavy groundstrokes, she can slice, it's a different sort of game."

Oudin, who was a surprise U.S. Open quarterfinalist in 2009, made it into the low 40s early this season but has seen her ranking drop to No. 68.

Italy will counter with French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, who is ranked sixth in the world; Flavia Pennetta, who is 23rd (she cracked the top 10 in the late summer of 2009 after winning the WTA event in Carson), 38th-ranked Roberta Vinci and 42nd-ranked Sara Errani.

So, based on rankings, Italy will defend its title. The Italians beat the U.S in last year's finals on red clay in Italy, and Fernandez said home-court, home-surface advantage matters.

This will be the first time since 2000 that the U.S. has hosted a Federation Cup final.

-- Diane Pucin

Top photo: Melanie Oudin. Credit: Susan Mullane / US Presswire

Bottom photo: Coco Vandeweghe. Credit: Hiro Komae / EPA