The U.S. is on the verge of reaching the Fed Cup final and capturing the title for the first time since 2000. But Saturday at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Lindsay Davenport revealed the U.S.’s chances have lessened considerably without the participation of either Venus or Serena Williams.
Davenport was jubilant in February when she and Ashley Harkleroad helped lead the U.S. past Germany in the quarterfinals, saying she would do her best to convince Venus and Serena to take up their country’s cause.
On Saturday in a post-match conference in Miami, Davenport said she was unable to convince either Williams sister to play.
“Yeah, I saw Venus in Memphis, and she said that she wasn’t going,” Davenport told reporters. “I tried for about one minute, and she just smiled and she’s like, ‘Nope.’ And I actually haven’t seen Serena until here. It was really brief as she was walking to go play. I said, ‘Hey, are you going?’ And she’s like, ‘Nope,’ with the same smile. I totally respect players’ decisions. I mean, for a lot of ties I didn’t go. It’s not easy to go to Moscow in April.”
It can’t be too hard as long as you want to do it, demonstrates the new mother Davenport who will have her baby in tow in Russia.
No explanation of why the Williams sisters won’t play. Zina Garrison is in her last year as U.S. Fed Cup captain, and the knock on her was that she wasn’t able to get the top players (aka Williams sisters) to play. What makes anyone think that incoming captain Mary Jo Fernandez will have better luck?
It wouldn’t have been an easy task going into Russia on red clay, even with the Williams sisters, but what an opportunity lost for the U.S. The American line-up will now likely be Davenport and Harkleroad again, neither of who thrive on the red clay against top opponents such as Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and the rest of the deep Russian bench.
This is ‘Exhibit A’ on why the Fed Cup lacks the appeal of a top-level international competition (top players regularly skip out, not just in the U.S.), and why in the U.S. it remains off, way, way off, the sports radar.
When Fernandez takes the helm in 2009, better to take a page out of U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe’s playbook and just work with young players who have the enthusiasm to represent the U.S. and develop a team from scratch. Worked out pretty well with Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryans. And stop sending invites to those that could take it or leave it.
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