Tennis

Tennis

Fernandez happy with Cup contingent
Saturday 24, Apr 2010

USA captain Mary Joe Fernandez is confident she has the team to beat Russia in the Fed Cup semi-finals this weekend. Fernandez had left a space open for Venus Williams but the world number four has not recovered from the knee injury she aggravated in Miami last month, while sister Serena is also injured. That means Fernandez must rely on rising star Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and doubles specialist Liezel Huber, with one of young duo Sloane Stephens and Julia Boserup set to be named in the team as back-up. Neither Williams sister has played Fed Cup since 2007 so it is not an unfamiliar situation for Fernandez, who led the US to the final last year. Fernandez told www.usta.com: "We're kind of used to not having either Venus or Serena around, so it's not like a shock to the team that really disrupts it. "This is really the core group of the team and the team that has played all the ties together. This team has very good chemistry. "I've always said in the past - and this is something that I learned from Billie Jean King - you want the team that wants to be there. "You want the team that believes in playing for its country and makes it a huge priority and commitment. I have that from the players that are here." Russia are also missing a number of their star names but world number six Elena Dementieva is in the team for the match in Alabama and her clash against Oudin could be key. The American teenager pulled off one of the best results of her fledgling career when she beat Dementieva in the second round of the US Open last year before going on to reach the quarter-finals. The Russian got her revenge in Paris earlier this year but it was another close match and the 28-year-old has the utmost respect for her young rival. "We have played two times before, and those two matches were quite difficult for both of us - three sets and very tough matches," Dementieva said. "I expect a tough game. She is a very consistent player, very solid on the baseline. She moves very well, so it is going to be a physical game." Oudin added: "It's a great experience for me getting to go play her. She's such a great player. I'm looking forward to this whole weekend." Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Ekaterina Makarova and Alla Kudryavtseva make up the rest of the Russian team, and they will be looking for a fourth consecutive win over USA. The other semi-final sees defending champions Italy take on the Czech Republic in Rome. The hosts will again rely on Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone, with the former opening proceedings against Lucie Hradecka tomorrow. Schiavone will then take on Lucie Safarova while the doubles will pit Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani against Petra Kvitova and Kveta Peschke.

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