While Melanie Oudin garnered the headlines, teammate Bethanie Mattek-Sands was the hero on Sunday in the Fed Cup semifinals where the U.S. came from behind to defeat Russian and gain the final. The final will be a rematch where they will again face the Italian team that easily dismissed them in the 2009 final.
Mattek-Sands won her Sunday singles to force the final doubles, where she teamed with Liezel Huber to defeat Elena Dementieva and Russian Fed Cup rookie Alla Kudryavtseva 6-3, 6-1.
On the opening day Saturday Melanie Oudin defeated Kudryavtseva, then the Russian Dementieva evening the tie at 1-1 with a straight-set win over Mattek-Sands. On Sunday in the opener Oudin failed to match her heroics at the US Open where she defeated Dementieva, falling to the Russian despite winning the second set 6-0.
Mattek-Sands then played the hero, outlasting replacement Ekaterina Marakova in three sets to forced the deciding doubles.
The U.S. vs. Russia semifinals match-up was a shamble of injuries on both sides, as Serena and Venus Williams declined the tie citing injuries on the American side, and for the Russians Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina took a pass citing injuries, although Safina and Kuznetsova are playing this week in Stuttgart. Russians Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova reportedly said ‘no’ to playing, and Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev reportedly had to strong-arm Dementieva to play.
The outlook for the Americans against the high-powered Russians was bleak prior to the tie, with some tennis writers such as Tennis Magazine’s Peter Bodo writing, “I expect a disillusioned and sullen U.S. team to get waxed by a B-team of Russians this weekend…” without the Williams sister’s participation.
Now in the Nov. 6-7 final the U.S. will host Italy, which blitzed the Czech Republic 5-0, and returns to the Fed Cup final for the fourth time in the last five years.
“It’s difficult for every team in the world [to beat us],” said Italian Fed Cup captain and former ATP player Corrado Barazzutti.
Last year the Italian team of Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone defeated the U.S. for the first time in 10 meetings in the final on clay in Italy.
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