Serena Williams has announced her intention to play Fed Cup by BNP Paribas in 2012, with USA facing Belarus at home in February followed by either a promotion or relegation tie in April.
“I am committing to play in both of the U.S. Fed Cup team’s ties in 2012,” said Williams. “After being physically unable to participate in the last few ties, I am eager to compete in Fed Cup and help my country return to the World Group.”
Serena’s last Fed Cup appearance was in 2007 when, along with her sister Venus, she led the American team to a 5-0 victory over Belgium in Delray Beach, Florida. That tie was in the World Group first round, but USA have since dropped into the competition’s second tier for the first time ever.
The Americans suffered relegation in 2010 after losses to Belgium and Germany, and now their road back to the top division begins with a tough World Group II clash against Belarus, to be played on home soil at a venue still to be announced.
Belarus, fresh from gaining promotion out of Europe/Africa Zone Group I, possess world No. 4 Victoria Azarenka in their ranks alongside the reliable Olga Govortsova, leaving Mary Joe Fernandez under no illusions that Serena’s presence is required for USA to have a good chance of bouncing straight back.
“Serena Williams is one of the best players in the history of our sport, and I’m thrilled that she has committed to play in both of our team’s ties next year,” said the American captain. “Her presence both on the court and off will undoubtedly help our team as we attempt to return to the World Group for 2013.”
Williams goes into 2012 with an unbeaten record in the competition, having won all seven of her previous rubbers. She is also a former Fed Cup champion after helping USA to win the title in her debut season in 1999.
The last 12 months, however, have been a nightmare for the 13-time Grand Slam champion. After winning her fourth Wimbledon singles title in July 2010, a combination of injury and illness have kept her sidelined.
Serena had a freak accident the week after her Wimbledon success when she stepped on broken glass in a restaurant in Munich. The injury turned out to be more serious than originally thought and required surgery, keeping her out of action for the rest of the year.
Then in March 2011, the 29-year-old announced that she had suffered a hematoma and pulmonary embolism. This second setback kept her off the court until the grass court season, when she finally made her long awaited comeback at the pre-Wimbledon warm-up event in Eastbourne.
Serena, a former world No. 1, is now ranked No. 80, but will be hoping that a return to form during the American hard court season will put in the frame as a contender for the US Open, which takes place at the start of September.