The United States’ quest to reach the Fed Cup final for the third straight year begins at the 2011 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Quarterfinal at Belgium. Play begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. ET) on an indoor hard court at the Sportpaleis in Antwerp, Belgium. This is the seventh meeting between these two nations in Fed Cup, with the U.S. owning a 5-1 advantage. Belgium’s only victory came at the 2006 World Group Semifinal in Ostend, Belgium, which is also the only meeting between these two nations contested in Belgium.
The U.S. has won the Fed Cup a record 17 times and is seeking its first title since 2000. Belgium’s sole Fed Cup title came in 2001. The U.S. reached its second consecutive final last year, where they lost to Italy in San Diego and also faced Italy in the 2009 final in Italy. The U.S. has only lost a first round tie twice (1997 in the Netherlands and 2002 in Raleigh, N.C. versus Austria) and both occurrences came in the team’s first match after winning the title (the U.S. did not compete in the 2001 semifinals after winning the title in 2000), meaning the U.S. Fed Cup has never lost two consecutive ties in the history of the competition.
This is Belgium’ s first appearance in World Group I since a 5-0 loss to the U.S. in the 2007 first round in Delray Beach, Fla. The hosts have won 10 of its last 12 home ties. The U.S. is a modest 7-8 in away matches since Fed Cup adopted the home-away format in 1995, but has only lost once on the road in the first round in five matches.
The opening day of play in the best-of-five match series features each country’s No. 1 singles player against the No. 2 player from the opposing country. The exact order of play (which country’s No. 1 plays first) was determined at the Draw Ceremony on Friday. The second day of competition begins on Sunday with the “reverse singles,” starting with each country’s No. 1 player squaring off followed by the No. 2 players and then the doubles match. Each match is best-of-three-sets.
On Saturday, the marquee match features Melanie Oudin against Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters.
“Playing Kim would be a real honor because I grew up watching her,” said Oudin. “She’s always been a great player, an idol to me. Getting to play against her would be pretty cool. I am definitely looking forward to it.”
Said Clijsters, “I am going to try to be ready first or second. It does not change my attitude too much. I am feeling good. I practiced with Yanina yesterday. I have played a lot of tennis the past few weeks, and I think I can kind of build on that. I have been able to rest enough and still train as much as I would like to. I am feeling ready for the tie.”
ORDER OF PLAY
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Singles A: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) vs. Yanina Wickmayer (BEL)
Singles B: Melanie Oudin (USA) vs. Kim Clijsters (BEL)
Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
Singles C: Mattek-Sands (USA) vs. Clijsters (BEL)
Singles D: Oudin (USA) vs. Wickmayer (BEL)
Doubles: Liezel Huber/Vania King (USA) vs. Kirsten Flipkens/An-Sophie Mestach (BEL)
Captains: Mary Joe Fernandez (USA), Sabine Appleman (BEL)
Full World Group I first round Fed Cup ties this weekend:
Australia v. Italy – Domain Tennis Centre, Hobart, Australia
Russia v. France – Olympic Stadium, Moscow, Russia
Slovak Rep. v. Czech Rep. – Sibamac Arena, Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Belgium v. USA Sportpaleis – Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
Tennis Channel will have daily live coverage of the USA-Belgium tie beginning at 7:30 am ET on Saturday and Sunday.
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