Mary Joe Fernandez, who was in her debut season as captain, led USA to its first Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final in six years when she took her young team to Italy last November.
For America, six years is somewhat of a drought in Fed Cup terms. It is the most successful nation in the competition’s history having won the title 17 times.
The current side, however, is in a transitional period with young players, such as Melanie Oudin, coming into the ranks. Finishing runner-up in 2009 provided crucial experience as the team looks to continue to progress after some encouraging performances.
“We started to build, starting last year,” said Fernandez. “We had an amazing year, and a run getting to the Final, which was very exciting, with a very young and inexperienced team.”
USA begins its campaign in 2010 with a trip to Lievin to face a French side that is also undergoing a changing of the guard.
“We’re playing France, without a Mauresmo, without a Dechy, because they’ve retired. So, that’s a plus for us,” said Fernandez, whose own Fed Cup playing career spanned seven years between 1991 and 1998.
“But they’re still very strong, they still have a lot of depth on their team. Alize Cornet, as we’ve seen in the past, can produce some great tennis. We’re pretty evenly matched. Home always has a little bit of an advantage. It’s on clay so that’s a little more uncomfortable for us.
“But again, with Melanie Oudin on our team, she is such a fighter, she loves playing for her country. The team atmosphere really suits her. So, I’m hoping she’s going to produce some of her best tennis.”
Alongside Oudin, Fernandez has named Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Shenay Perry and Liezel Huber, a doubles specialist. Mattek-Sands and Perry will be playing in their second Fed Cup ties.
“Bethanie Mattek won a couple of qualifying matches here,” said Fernandez, speaking in Melbourne during the Australian Open. “She did great in the doubles and mixed doubles. So, she’s a potential to play singles and doubles with Liezel Huber.
“And then Shenay Perry, I picked her because I watched her play here as well. She came through the qualies. She’s got a different game.
“I think it’s always important in a team to try to get different game styles, not always have the same styles of play. She’s got a one-handed backhand, she can slice, also play doubles. So, I have two options there for singles and doubles.”
The French captain, Nicolas Escude, has named Cornet, Julie Coin, Pauline Parmentier and Stephanie Cohen-Aloro in another line-up with little past experience of Fed Cup play.