Saturday, February 12, 2011
Williamses announce they will play Fed Cup tie in April.
Just who will make up her team is still to be determined.
If the USA, on the heels of Sunday's 4-1 first-round loss to Belgium, doesn't beat Germany, it means relegation from the top tier of women's tennis' annual international team competition.
The good news for Fernandez is that the top two Americans, Venus and Serena Williams, have said they want to participate. And, in fact, they must make themselves available to play this year if they hope to fulfill a stated goal of competing in the 2012 Olympics in London. ITF rules require that players fulfill Fed Cup obligations for Olympic consideration. The Williams sisters, who have not competed in Fed Cup since 2007, must fulfill obligations in 2011 and 2012.
The obligation for 2011 has not been filled, USTA spokesman Tim Curry said.
The bad news is that both are sidelined by injuries. Serena has not played a regulation match since Wimbledon because of a foot injury; Venus suffered an injury to the "psoas" muscle, which flexes the hip and spinal column, during the Australian Open last month.
If they are still injured in April, does that mean they won't have a chance to fulfill their obligation for 2011?
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Curry said.
Venus is recovering and on track to return in late March, Carlos Fleming, Venus' agent, said in an e-mail. Serena has said she will be ready to go in the spring.
"After being in the final the past two years, we had a tough draw to start off this season having to play Belgium in Antwerp with (Kim) Clijsters and (Yanina) Wickmayer," Fernandez said Wednesday. "Germany is a difficult opponent and tough place for us to have to travel to in the playoffs to stay in the World Group. Venus and Serena have made themselves available. As we get closer, we will find out if they are healthy enough to play."
The site and surface -- indoor clay, perhaps? -- will be announced later.
The USA, which has won a record 17 Fed Cup titles, reached the finals in 2009 and 2010, Fernandez's first two years as captain.
Fernandez relied on Melanie Oudin (currently ranked No. 61) and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (No. 48) for the heavy lifting in singles. Germany's top players are Andrea Petkovic (No. 24) and Julia Goerges (No. 34).
In other World Group playoffs, Spain will host France, Slovakia will host Serbia and Australia will host Ukraine.