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U.S. Advances to Host Fed Cup Final; Bidding Open for Site

April 25, 2010 07:00 PM

From left: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Liezel Huber, practice partner
Sloane Stephens of Boca Raton, and Melanie Oudin take a
victory lap after defeating Russia in the Fed Cup semifinals

by Rick Vach,

In last year's Fed Cup final the U.S. and Melanie Oudin were easily dismissed by Italy 4-0 on the European red clay.

This year's final will be a cleaner affair in regards to dirty socks and a general lack of sliding around.

The U.S. Fed Cup team earned home court advantage in the Fed Cup final Nov. 6-7, 2010, when they came back from a match down on Sunday to win the final singles and the deciding doubles, advancing past Russia to their second consecutive Fed Cup final. The U.S. now has home court advantage in the final, and will likely go with a medium-to-fast hardcourt surface for the November tie against Italian stalwarts Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone.

On Sunday the U.S. found itself down 1-2 in the tie after Melanie Oudin lost to Elena Dementieva in three sets. That's when American Bethanie Mattek-Sands literally took over the tie, defeating Russian Ekaterina Marakova in three sets, then teaming with Liezel Huber to defeat Dementieva and Russian Fed Cup rookie Alla Kudryavtseva 6-3, 6-1 in the deciding doubles.

"The crowd really helped me," Mattek-Sands said of the vocal Birmingham, Ala. fans. "This is my first time being at home (in a Fed Cup tie). It was really to my advantage. It was a long, long singles match. She had me running side to side a couple points. As far as my all-court game, I want to play that (way) all the time, not just third sets. I like coming in, I like volleying, serve and volleying, mixing it up. That's pretty much my game, so I got to stick to it."

Italy defeated the Czech Republic 5-0 in their semifinal, and return to the Fed Cup final for the fourth time in the last five years.

"It's difficult for every team in the world [to beat us]," said Italian Fed Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti. In the 2009 final the Italian team defeated the U.S. for the first time in 10 meetings.

The Italian line-up is set with Pennetta and Schiavone, but it remains to be seen whether the U.S. elects either Serena or Venus Williams to the team for the final. Both of the Williams sisters passed on participating in the semifinals citing injury, and did not play in the first round.

This is the first time the U.S. will host the Fed Cup final since 2000, the last time they won the event. U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez has now coached her squads to the Fed Cup final in both her seasons as captain.

"I'm so looking forward to [the final]," Fernandez said. "Again, the crowd makes a big difference. It's just such a boost. You feel like (it's) with you every point. To have that support means a lot."

The USTA will select the site for the 2010 Fed Cup final, with plans to announce the venue in mid-June, pending approval from the ITF. U.S. facilities interested in bidding to host the 2010 Fed Cup final can submit a letter of intent to the USTA by May 17, 2010. 






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