The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final between Italy and USA will be staged in Reggio Calabria on 7-8 November.
Italy has named a full strength team of Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani as it looks to win its second Fed Cup title, three years after defeating Belgium to win its first.
USA, meanwhile, is without either of the Williams sisters and has named a young team of Melanie Oudin, Alexa Glatch, Vania King and doubles specialist Liezel Huber, who provides the experienced head.
Pennetta has enjoyed the best year of her career in 2009, winning back-to-back titles in Palermo and Los Angeles as well as becoming the first female Italian player ever to reach the world’s top 10.
Now aged 27, Pennetta turned professional on her 18th birthday and has notched nine singles and six doubles titles along the way. Her best Grand Slam performances have come at the US Open where she has been a quarterfinalist for the last two years.
In Fed Cup play, Pennetta holds a win-loss record of 11-4 since making her debut against Sweden in 2003. She was also a member of the Italian team that was crowned champion for the first time in 2006.
Schiavone has tended to save her best performances for Fed Cup. None more so than in the semifinals when she came from a set down to defeat Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, the reigning Roland Garros champion.
Schiavone has been a fixture in the Italian line-up since winning her debut rubber against Daniela Hantuchova of Slovak Republic in 2002. She played in the winning team of 2006 and also the side that finished runner-up a year later.
However, Schiavone’s outstanding individual form of late will be of some concern to the Americans. In the last couple of weeks, she has won a $1m title in Moscow - the second tournament victory of her career - and reached a final in Osaka.
Vinci has the enviable record of being undefeated in Fed Cup doubles play. She has won all of her 13 rubbers and holds the Italian record for the most number of wins on a doubles court.
Her impressive Fed Cup career includes one rubber that stands out above all others, playing with Schiavone against Belgium’s Justine Henin and Kirsten Flipkens. The occasion was the 2006 Final and, although the win came courtesy of a third set withdrawal from Henin, it clinched Italy’s only title.
As an individual, Vinci has won two singles titles, including victory in Barcelona earlier this year where she defeated both Pennetta and Schiavone en route. In doubles play, she has won three titles and reached the semifinals at both the US Open and Roland Garros.
Errani is the youngest member of this experienced Italian team. The 22-year-old, who made her debut in last year’s first round against Spain, has played in four ties and has an impressive win-loss record of 6-1.
Errani reached her career high world ranking of No. 31 earlier this year. In 2008, her most successful season, she won two titles in Palermo and Portoroz.
This year, Errani reached the final again in both Palermo and Portoroz, losing to Pennetta and Dinara Safina respectively. She also reached the third round at both the Australian Open and US Open.
Oudin burst onto the world scene at the US Open in September when she reached the quarterfinals, losing to Caroline Wozniacki. However, the 18-year-old had caught the eye of most tennis followers long before.
Oudin enjoyed a successful junior career and began to play her first senior tournaments in 2006. With three $50k victories under her belt, she came through qualifying to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon before making her run to the last eight at Flushing Meadows.
In Fed Cup play, Oudin made her debut against Argentina in this year’s first round. Having lost her opening rubber, she fought back to defeat Betina Jozami in three sets, providing USA with the platform to progress in the decisive doubles match. She was also a non-playing member of the team in the semifinals.
Glatch played her first Fed Cup tie in the semifinals against Czech Republic and made more than an impressive debut. She comfortably defeated Iveta Benesova and Petra Kvitova in her two singles rubbers, dropping just six games.
The 20 year-old from California is currently ranked No. 132 in the world and is USA’s No. 10. She reached her career high ranking of No. 102 in August.
As an individual, Glatch hasn’t enjoyed the best form of late. In fact, she hasn’t reached the second round of a tournament since June at the AEGON Classic in Edgbaston, part of the British grass court season.
King was called in to the American team following the withdrawal of Serena Williams, who was competing at the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha.
The 20-year-old made her debut against Germany in 2006 and has played in five ties, compiling a win-loss record of 4-5. She is currently ranked No. 78 in the world and has won one career singles title.
King, however, has enjoyed more success on the doubles court. She has seven tournament victories to her name, including wins in Brisbane and New York in 2009, and also finished runner-up in the mixed doubles at this year’s Roland Garros.
Huber, a doubles specialist, is the top ranked doubles player in the world. Teaming up with various partners down the years, but with Cara Black of late, she has won 39 career titles including four at Grand Slam events.
Huber began her Fed Cup career representing South Africa in 1998. However, in 2007, she became an American citizen and has now played in USA’s last three ties.
Mary Joe Fernandez, USA’s captain, has described Huber as ‘unquestionably our team leader’. In this year’s Fed Cup campaign, she has won the decisive doubles rubber in both rounds.