With three days to go until the first ball is struck at the 2009 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Final between Italy and USA, there is a typical Mediterranean calm at the picturesque Circolo del Tennis Rocco Polimeni, as the teams make the most of the sunny weather in their daily practice sessions and the one hundred and fifty or so staff put the finishing touches to the stadium and its surroundings at this historic club.
The Italians were out early morning preparing for their first home final, under the watchful eye of Domenico Travia, founder of the club in 1929, which has the second-largest membership of any tennis club in Italy with around 4000 affiliates.
Rocco Polimeni was, auspiciously, the place where Italy won its first ever place in the semifinals of the Fed Cup World Group back in 1999, when the competition made its debut here. Could history favour the Italians this weekend?
Francesca Schiavone, one of the most charismatic players the competition has ever seen, was out on Centre Court practicing with teammate Roberta Vinci, the familiar and earnest grunts from the world No. 16 echoing around the 5,500-seat stadium which has the enviable backdrop of the Stretto di Messina, the stretch of sea that separates Italy from the island of Sicily. Flavia Pennetta was also practicing nearby, opposite teammate Sara Errani and alongside her coach.
While gates won’t be open to the fans until Saturday morning, a lucky group of local schoolchildren were allowed access to the court to capture a few minutes of the Italian girls kicking up the red clay with some feisty tennis.
Later on a more well-known couple, former Italian pros Lea Pericoli and Nicola Pietrangeli were keeping their eye on the American young guns Melanie Oudin, Alexa Glatch and Vania King, working on their form with captain Mary-Joe Fernandez.
Behind the scenes, while the baristas were making sure the coffee machines in the clubhouse are in perfect working order ahead of a busy weekend in Reggio Calabria, the Fed Cup Radio team were also testing their machines – and their voice boxes - prior to their live broadcasts this weekend. Chris Bowers, Craig Gabriel and Eli Weinstein will be on the airwaves with live ball-by-ball commentary on Saturday and Sunday throughout all five matches, via Fedcup.com.
With already one storm hitting Reggio Calabria this week, the 47th Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final could provide further uproar in the city should USA, led by world doubles No. 1 Liezel Huber, steal the crown from one-time champion Italy on their own turf in their first ever home final.
Whatever the outcome, the weekend is sure to breathe some fire into Fed Cup.