Fed Cup 2014: USA vs. Italy

Here’s the commercial promoting Team USA’s first round Tie vs. Italy in Cleveland. Sadly, in my 12th year as the Fed Cup announcer, I’m going to miss this one because I will be in Doha preparing for the Qatar Total Open. I worked my first Fed Cup Tie in Springfield, Missouri back in 2002, where Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport delivered a Playoff win over Israel to keep the U.S. in the World Group for 2003.
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It’s the “World Cup of Tennis!” – On February 8th, 12 nations around the world will host first-round play in the 2014 Quest for the Fed Cup…including the United States.

Last year in the first-round, despite two amazing upset wins from Varvara Lepchenko in Italy over Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani, Team USA was defeated 3-2 and relegated to the World Group Playoffs for the second consecutive year. While Italy would go on to win its 4th Fed Cup title in 8-years, the U.S. had to fight just to stay in the World Group.

In April, with Sloane Stephens, Varvara Lepchenko and Venus & Serena Williams, the U.S. hosted Sweden at home in Delray Beach. Sloane lost the first match to Sofia Arvidsson, but Serena was unstoppable. She lost only seven games in her two singles wins…leading the way for big sister Venus to clinch the Tie with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Johanna Larsson. With the win, the U.S. maintained its position in the World Group for 2014.

2014 Fed Cup First Round: Team USA vs. Team Italy

Here we go again! On February 8th and 9th, the U.S. will face Italy in first-round Fed Cup play for the second year in-a-row, but this time its on home soil. Captain Mary Jo Fernandez’s hometown of Cleveland will host the Tie on hard court at the Public Auditorium.

These two teams last played indoors on the hard court when San Diego hosted the 2010 Fed Cup Final. Italy easily won the title, 3-1 with Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta. Melanie Oudin picked up the only win for Team USA, defeating Schiavone 6-3, 6-1 in the Tie’s third rubber.

Truth is, the U.S. is 0-3 against Italy since losing the Fed Cup Final in Reggio Calabria in 2009. The last time Team USA defeated Italy was in the 2003 Quaterfinals in Washington D.C., where Captain Billie Jean King’s team of Chanda Rubin, Meghann Shaughnessy, Lisa Raymond and Alexandra Stevenson shut-out the Italians 5-0.

Needless to say, Mary Jo Fernandez is hoping to convince Serena Williams to commit to the Cleveland Tie, and keep the U.S. out of the World Grup Playoffs for the third consecutive year. It’s a “big ask” for the world #1, seeing as Serena’s next tournament will be on the other side of the globe in Doha, Qatar the very next day.