It was like deja vu in the interview room at the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final on Tuesday.
Turn the clock back a year and Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti was sitting in the same position with the same four players alongside him, Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani, talking about the upcoming clash with USA.
So what’s changed?
The venue is new, this year’s Final being staged on an indoor hard court in San Diego, and Barazzutti is also sporting a sharp new hair cut. “It takes years off him,” one onlooker commented.
The other difference is that Italy now has a Grand Slam champion in its ranks, after Francesca Schiavone romped to victory at Roland Garros in June.
At the age of 30, Schiavone has enjoyed somewhat of a breakthrough year with two of her four career titles coming in 2010, including the triumph in Paris, which saw her jump to a personal high of No. 6 in the rankings.
“It’s fantastic,” said the charismatic Italian, describing the feeling of being a Grand Slam winner. “It’s a great trophy. It means that I get to speak to you [the media] a lot more now!”
Schiavone isn’t the only Italian player enjoying an Indian summer in her career, with Pennetta, Vinci and Errani all still ranked inside the Top 50.
Pennetta, in particular, has added another string to her bow in the last 12 months. She enters this year’s Final as the world’s top ranked doubles player, fresh from winning the year-end WTA Championships in Doha with regular partner Gisela Dulko.
“We’re taking nothing for granted,” said Barazzutti. “We’re here to try to win. We know that it will be very tough because the Americans have played very well to be in the Final.”
One fact that can’t be ignored is that all four of Italy’s players are ranked higher than their American opposition, so on paper this should be a routine victory for the visitors.
“Rankings aren’t the first thing in tennis and in Fed Cup anything can happen,” said Pennetta. “We have to try our best and give respect to the opposition.”
Italy is the clear favourite ahead of the weekend's action but don't rule a battling performance from USA and the potential for a shock result... the Italians certainly aren't.