The U.S. Fed Cup team at the official draw ceremony in Rimini, Italy.
© Ray Giubilo
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
Jamie Hampton received the call from U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez to be a member of the team for the first time last week. Now she gets the nod to open play in the U.S.’s first-round tie against Italy, to be played on red clay in Rimini, Italy.
Fernandez nominated Hampton, the No. 64 player in the world, to be the No. 2 singles player for the U.S. at the official draw ceremony on Friday. The 23-year-old from Auburn, Ala., was drawn to face Italy’s No. 1 singles player Sara Errani, the world No. 7, in the first singles match Saturday.
Hampton will be followed by another Fed Cup rookie, Varvara Lepchenko, the world No. 21, who will take the court as the No. 1 singles player for the U.S. against Italy’s No. 2, world No. 16, Roberta Vinci. On Sunday, Lepchenko and Errani are slated to square off first, followed by Hampton versus Vinci. Closing the tie Sunday will be the doubles rubber, which is currently scheduled to be Liezel Huber and Melanie Oudin for the U.S. against Karin Knapp and Nastassja Burnett for Italy.
Vinci and Errani are ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the world in doubles and captured the 2013 Australian Open title a few weeks ago. Should the doubles match be a live match to decide the tie, both Fernandez and Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti have the option to change their lineups on Sunday.
Hampton will be the underdog against Errani, the 2012 French Open runner-up. But coming off her first career Grand Slam third round appearance at the Australian Open, Hampton enters the match with a lot of confidence.
"I am excited to make my Fed Cup debut in a live singles match," Hampton said. "Errani is a great clay court player and is having a lot of success. The match will start off level, so I’ll go out there and give it my all. It should be a good start."
While the Italians, who defeated the U.S. in the Fed Cup finals in both 2009 and 2010, are the favorites—playing at home and on clay—Fernandez knows her young team is up for the challenge.
"The Italians are the favorites and they have a wonderful record, but we have been in this situation many times before," Fernandez said. "All of the players have different styles on both teams, and we have to make the adjustments as they come."
"I am expecting to do well. If we win, it won’t be a surprise," she added. "We are going in with a very positive attitude and will take each match as it comes and fight our hearts out to do our best."