NEWS

Stephens, Serena to open play for U.S. Fed Cup team vs. Sweden

April 19, 2013 02:20 PM
Serena Williams and Sofia Arvidsson are the No. 1 singles players.
Sloane Stephens and Johanna Larsson are the No. 2 singles players.
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
 
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – In the three previous ties that Sloane Stephens has been named to the U.S. Fed Cup team, the U.S. has won each time and has a streak going of two consecutive 5-0 sweeps.
 
The 20-year-old Stephens could be the good luck charm, but for the U.S.’s World Group Play-off against Sweden, April 20-21 in Delray Beach, Fla., she intends to bring not just good will but good play. U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez nominated world No. 1 Serena Williams and world No. 16 Stephens as her No. 1 and No. 2 singles players, respectively, to face Sweden on the outdoor hard court.
 
At the official draw ceremony on Friday, Stephens was drawn to play the opening match Saturday against Sweden’s No. 1, world No. 54 Sofia Arvidsson. In the second singles match, Serena plays Sweden’s No. 2 player, Johanna Larsson. On Sunday, Serena and Arvidsson are scheduled to play first, followed by Stephens versus Larsson and the doubles rubber between Venus Williams and Varvara Lepchenko against Arvidsson and Larsson.
 
The winner of the tie secures a spot in the World Group for 2014, while the loser will be relegated to World Group II.
 
"I’ve never lost a tie so we are not going to start this weekend," Stephens said. "I am just really excited to go out and play. I am going to go out there for my team and my country and do my best."
 
This will be Stephens’ Fed Cup singles debut. She competed in doubles with Liezel Huber in the U.S’s 5-0 Play-off win over Ukraine last year and was also named to the U.S. team for its World Group II 5-0 win over Ukraine in 2012 as well as its 3-2 semifinal win over Russia in 2010.
 
As a Florida native and resident, it could not be a better time or place for Stephens, who will be playing in front of family and friends, to make her singles debut. The matchup will be her second career meeting with Arvidsson, whom she defeated in straight sets in Brisbane in January.
 
"I’m from down here so a lot of my family is going to come," Stephens said. "It will be my first singles match. I will be little nervous but I have a great team behind me and I know they will be really supportive."
 
Serena and Venus are also Florida residents, of nearby Palm Beach Gardens, and Fernandez grew up in South Florida and will have her family in attendance.
 
With the four top-ranked American women in the world on her team – and all ranked in the Top 30 – Fernandez had multiple options for her lineup, but she decided to stick with the current 1-2. She can also substitute players for Sunday’s matches and appreciates having so many choices, with great singles and doubles players alike.
 
"Basically we stuck with the rankings," Fernandez said. "Serena and Sloane are No. 1 and No. 2 for the team right now. Everybody is hitting the ball great and playing well. The good news for me is I have four great possibilities for all the matches, but we are starting Day 1 going with the rankings."
 
This will be Serena’s first career meeting with the No. 66-ranked Larsson, but she said she plans to just focus on all the things she does well – from her booming serve to her vicious backhand – to put a point on the board for the U.S.
 
"I can only just do the best that I can," Serena said. "I have not played her before but I will learn about her in the first few games and go from there."
 
 
 

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