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Fed Cup

McHale to open play for U.S. Fed Cup Team against Ukraine

April 20, 2012 07:52 AM
Serena Williams and Lesia Tsurenko are the No. 1 singles players.
Liezel Huber and Sloane Stephens will play doubles against the Kichenok twins.
Christina McHale and Elina Svitolina are the No. 2 singles players.
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
 
KHARKIV, Ukraine – In the last two ties for the U.S. Fed Cup Team, Christina McHale has played the opening match, and against Ukraine in a World Group Playoff this weekend, things will be no different.
 
McHale, the world No. 36 and the United States' No. 2 singles player, was drawn to face Ukraine’s No. 1, Lesia Tsurenko, the world No. 110, in the first match of the tie Saturday at the Superior Golf Resort and Spa. In the second singles match, 13-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, the U.S. No. 1, faces 17-year-old Elina Svitolina, who is making her Fed Cup debut.
 
On Sunday, Williams faces Tsurenko in the third singles match, followed by McHale against Svitolina, and then the doubles match will take place between world No. 1 doubles player Liezel Huber and Sloane Stephens against twins Nadiya Kichenok and Lyudmyla Kichenok in a tie that, on paper, makes the U.S. the heavy favorite to win and return to the World Group for 2013.
 
McHale won her first career Fed Cup matches in the U.S.’s 5-0 win over Belarus in February in a World Group II first-round tie, dominating both her singles matches in a form that she has continued to display since, including an upset of reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on her way to the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.
 
"Either way, I have to be ready, whether I am playing first or second, so I am just looking forward to playing tomorrow," she said of her match against Tsurenko, whom she has never faced.
 
In the second match, Williams will be looking to extend her perfect, unbeaten Fed Cup record against Svitolina, who was the world No. 1 in juniors in 2010. Williams has never faced either Ukrainian singles player, but Svitolina did play juniors against Stephens before they turned professional, so Serena is receiving plenty of advice from her teammate, as well as U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez.
 
"Like Christina said, it doesn’t matter because you have to be ready, anyway," Williams said of playing the first or second match. "I don’t know much about her, but Mary Joe has been able to tell me a few things about her, and I am just going to go out there and try to play my game."
 
Fernandez feels confident in her lineup and with McHale stepping up first, with two Fed Cup wins and three matches on her resume.
 
"I think it is fantastic," Fernandez said of how the draw turned out. "Christina has now played a few Fed Cups. She has played both the first and second match, so I think it is a good start for the team. As a player, I liked playing first and not knowing any results, so it is a good thing for us."
 
Although the U.S. is the heavy favorite on paper, having come through and come back in an underdog role several times during Fernandez’s tenure as captain, the players know they need to be at the top of their games and will not take anyone or anything for granted as they try to reclaim their place in Fed Cup’s top level next year.
 
"Anybody can win at any given time," said Huber, who is undefeated in live rubbers for the U.S. in her career. "We don’t think of ourselves as underdogs or favorites because in tennis anything can happen at any time. Like Serena said, we are just going to play our game, and hopefully they play great and so do we to put on a good show for the fans."
 
The matches will be broadcast on tape delay on Tennis Channel beginning at 12 p.m. ET Saturday, April 21, and 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, April 22.
 

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