The Fed Cup finals are finally here! A scrappy, Williams-sister-free Team USA is in the “toe” of the Italian boot this weekend, battling for Fed Cup glory on slow red clay. World No. 49 Melanie Oudin, who proved herself as a little-known underdog in the first round against Argentina this February, is now the team No. 1. Joining her are No. 132-ranked Alexa Glatch, who saved the USA from elimination against the Czech Republic in the semifinals, Vania King (who is replacing an on again/off-again Serena Williams) and doubles No. 1 Liezel Huber, who has used her experience to win the crucial fifth-rubbers in both the 1st round and semis this year.
Photos: Paul Zimmer via FedCup.com
“It’s definitely a little bit of pressure without the Williams sisters,” Oudin said to reporters (via the Tampa Examiner). “I thought that I might not even be playing (in the Fed Cup final), and definitely not No. 1 singles, but it’s a good feeling because I like representing our country and I’ve been on the team twice before. I’m really looking forward to playing and just fighting hard and having a good time again this weekend.”
Photo: Paul Zimmer via FedCup.com
If Team USA is scrappy, Team Italia is a band of gritty street fighters. Flavia Pennetta (No. 11) and Francesca Schiavone (No. 16) led their team to a 5-0 victory against France in February (in a battle that included some trash talk and a few rude gestures) and dismantled the Russians in the semifinals: 4-1. This is Italy’s third finals appearance in four years, having won the Fed Cup vs. Belgium in 2006 and lost to the Russians in 2007. Current team members Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone and Roberta Vinci played in both of these finals.
Pennetta gave the chair ump another finger during France vs. Italy 1st round.
Perhaps the underdog Team USA will take heart in the teams’ head-to-head – this is the 10th meeting between the two nations, with USA leading Italy 9-0 in their series. The last time they met was in 2003 when USA won 5-0. Then again, streaks were made to be broken. Click here for some more interesting stats from the Fed Cup website.
Here’s the draw for the Fed Cup finals:
Saturday, November 7
* Flavia Pennetta (ITA) v Alexa Glatch (USA)
* Francesca Schiavone (ITA) v Melanie Oudin (USA)
Sunday, November 8
* Flavia Pennetta (ITA) v Melanie Oudin (USA)
* Francesca Schiavone (ITA) v Alexa Glatch (USA)
* Sara Errani / Roberta Vinci (ITA) v Liezel Huber / Vania King (USA)
Click here for the Fed Cup TV schedule and live streaming options.