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03 November 2010

Americans bid to capitalise on home advantage



  • Chris Archer

Photo: Ron AngleCaptain Mary Joe Fernandez (USA)

Mary Joe Fernandez was in buoyant mood at the pre-draw press conference on Tuesday, ahead of USA hosting Italy at the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final in San Diego.

The American captain knows her young side is the underdog against an experienced Italian team but is relishing the chance to play for the title for a second straight year.

“We're very excited to be in a Final again,” said Fernandez. “It makes a big difference when you're home. We can really feel it in our practices, and we're just feeling that much more comfortable.

“So it's a thrill. We're going to try to win the Fed Cup for the first time in ten years, bring it back to the United States. The team is excited and we're really looking forward to the weekend.”

Fernandez has nominated the usual trio of Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber, while she has also handed a debut to teenager Coco Vandeweghe.

“I'm excited to be able to represent my country,” said Vandeweghe. “It's been a big dream of mine and it's a big deal in my family. My mother was an Olympian. So just to be able to wear the USA flag proud in this Fed Cup, whether I play or not, is a great experience for me.”

Mattek-Sands, runner-up at a tour event in Quebec City in September, has recently leapfrogged Oudin in the world rankings and goes into this tie as the team’s No. 1 player.

“We have great chemistry on our team,” said Mattek-Sands. “Everyone gets along. We’ve had some great practices this week. We’re just going to try to keep that mojo going.”

USA and Italy are facing off in a repeat of last year’s Final when the Italians, led by Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone, claimed a 4-0 victory in Reggio Calabria.

“I feel a lot different because last year, when we were away, it was the first Final we've been in for a long time,” said Oudin, who lost both her singles rubbers against the Italians.

“Playing Pennetta and Schiavone, they were both a lot higher than me and really experienced players. I was definitely nervous going into it and didn't really know what to expect.

“This year I'm a lot smarter of a player, I'm more mature and I think if I play I know what to expect from them more. I think this surface is gonna suit our whole team a lot better than the surface did last year.”

The Americans have selected an indoor hard court for this year’s clash, much different to the outdoor clay in Reggio Calabria in 2009, and Fernandez is hoping that her players can make home advantage count.

"We want the crowd to be as into it as possible," said USA's captain. "From the very first point, you feel that support. That's what makes it so nice to be at home because you're feeling that constantly.

"I think it gives you such a boost when you're playing well but even when maybe things aren't going well it keeps you in and it keeps you motivated. So I want the crowd to be as vocal as possible.

“We’ve seen upsets in the past. They’re experienced, accomplished and are a great team, but if we execute our game plan and play well then we can win."

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  • More photos

    • Captain Mary Joe Fernandez (USA)American team
    • Melanie Oudin and Coco Vandeweghe (USA)Liezel Huber (USA)
    • Captain Mary Joe Fernandez and Melanie Oudin (USA)American press conference

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