Italy will be hoping for a repeat result of the last year’s Final when it travels to San Diego in November as the defending Fed Cup by BNP Paribas champion. USA and Italy are meeting for the second successive year to decide the destination of the trophy, and the visitors will draw strength from the 4-0 victory on clay in Reggio Calabria in 2009.
That was Italy’s only ever win against the Americans, with the head-to-head score now standing at 9-1. USA has home advantage this time and has selected to host the tie on an indoor hard court. History may lean towards the Americans, but recent form makes the Italians favourite. USA has battled past France and Russia in this year’s campaign, while Italy has lost just one rubber on its way to victories over Ukraine and Czech Republic. Similar to last year, both nations have experienced contrasting routes to the Final. USA has been forced to dig deep, while Italy has cruised through with the loss of just a single rubber.
USA’s first round tie against France was actually a routine affair, as Melanie Oudin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands doubled up to give the away team an unassailable 3-0 lead in Lievin. Mattek-Sands and doubles specialist Liezel Huber successfully teamed up in the fifth rubber to leave the scoreline 4-1 in favour of the visitors. The French team was a far cry from the one that lifted the trophy in 2003, but it was still a positive performance from an American side that possessed a healthy mix of youth and experience.
The reward for USA was a home tie in the semifinals against old foe Russia. The Russians had won the last three meetings between the two powerful Fed Cup nations, but revenge was around the corner for Fernandez’s team. Such is the strength in depth at the disposal of Shamil Tarpischev, Russia’s captain, he consistently has the luxury of naming his team from a pool of over a dozen Top 100 players.
Once again playing as the team’s No. 1 player in the absence of the Williams sisters, Oudin got the home side off to the perfect start. “You know what, it was a big adrenaline rush,” said Mattek-Sands, who became only the third American player ever to win successive live matches to seal victory on the final day. “I’m normally not really emotional on the court, but just playing in Fed Cup, different pressures. I was really pumped, though. I always want to win whether I’m playing singles, doubles, charades, whatever. I think we’re all pretty competitive. So I was ready to go.”