By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
While the U.S. Fed Cup roster for its quarterfinal tie in February is not yet completely set, one thing is for certain.
Lindsay Davenport, former world No.1 and three-time Grand Slam champion, will be returning to the team for the first time since 2005. Davenport, 31, is mounting a comeback to professional tennis after giving birth to her first child in 2007, and high on her priority list was once again competing for the U.S. Fed Cup team.
The presence of Davenport will be a huge boost for the U.S., which faces Germany in La Jolla, Calif., on Feb. 2-3 on a hardcourt outdoor surface.
She is one of the most accomplished players in U.S. Fed Cup history, with a sterling 31-2 overall record and a 25-2 singles record. The former world No. 1 helped the U.S. win its last Fed Cup trophy in 2000 with a 5-0 defeat of Spain in the final and has not lost a Fed Cup match since 1994.
The U.S. has won 17 Fed Cup titles in its history – the most of any nation – and has appeared in 26 finals.
Zina Garrison returns as the 2008 U.S. Fed Cup team captain, and her former doubles partner, Mary Joe Fernandez, is also joining the team as coach this year and will take over as captain in 2009. Garrison has been captain since 2004 and led the team to three semifinal appearances. As players, Garrison was a member of two winning U.S. Fed Cup teams, and Fernandez was a member of the winning team in 1996.
The two will select the rest of the U.S. team members for the tie against Germany. Both Venus and Serena Williams have been approached about playing, and other players potentially in the mix are Lisa Raymond, Liezel Huber, Meghann Shaughnessy, Jill Craybas, Madison Brengle, Laura Granville, Angela Haynes and Shenay Perry.
In 2007, the U.S. just missed reaching the final, with a loss to Russia in the semifinals after handily defeating Belgium in the first round. Russia defeated the U.S., 3-2, to advance to the final, with Nadia Petrova and Elena Vesnina defeating Venus Williams and Raymond in a tight 7-5, 7-6 (1) victory in the deciding doubles match. The Russians went on to win the 2007 title with a 4-0 win over Italy.
The U.S. and Germany have not faced each other in Fed Cup since the first round in 2006, which the U.S. won, 3-2. The German roster has not been set, but last year’s team included Sandra Kloesel, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Andrea Petkovic, Tatjana Malek and Angelique Kerber.
The U.S. could potentially have a very flexible team, as all the top singles players – Davenport and the Williams sisters – are also excellent doubles players. And with doubles specialists in Huber (currently co-ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles) and Raymond, it gives Garrison and Fernandez a lot of options in choosing a team.
If the U.S. can get by Germany and if Russia defeats Israel in its quarterfinal match, it would set up another U.S.-Russia semifinal. The Russians have several top-10 players in the world to choose from for their roster – Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze.
The semifinal round will be held April 26-27, and the final will take place Sept. 13-14.
The 2008 Fed Cup competition could see a lot of the top players in the world compete, especially any player who did not compete in 2007. In order to be eligible for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, a player must make herself available for any of the ITF's international team competitions for two of the years between 2005-2008, with one of those years having to be either 2007 or 2008.