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United States face Fed Cup mountain to climb in final

sports Updated: Nov 07, 2010 10:27 IST

Reuters
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Outranked and under-strength going into this weekend's Fed Cup final, the United States will have to break new ground if they are to deny holders Italy a third title in five years on Sunday.

Deprived of their top players Serena and Venus Williams because of injury, the Americans trailed 2-0 after Saturday's opening singles, a deficit from which no team has come back to win the final.

"Down 0-2 is not the best situation," US number one Bethanie Mattek-Sands told reporters after falling to Italy's Flavia Pennetta 7-6 6-2 in the second match of a possible five at the San Diego Sports Arena. Sands added, "But tomorrow is a new day. I'll be up first I think tomorrow, barring how I feel tonight. We have a chance still. We just have to play great."

Mattek-Sands, who suffered from leg cramps during the match, was scheduled to take on Italy's top player Francesca Schiavone in Sunday's reverse singles.

"We'll first have to see how Bethanie is doing," US team captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. "But we have the option to change. We can have the option for (Melanie Oudin) to play first or Mel to play against Pennetta.

"Mel's game matches well against Pennetta's - her consistency, her speed. Pennetta doesn't have the ball that can totally outplay Mel. So it's a very big possibility that if we get to that stage that Melanie would probably play."

The initial plan was to have American teenager Coco Vandeweghe take on Pennetta in the second of the reverse singles before Liezel Huber and Oudin play Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the concluding doubles.

However Fed Cup debutant Vandeweghe was crushed 6-2 6-4 by Schiavone on Saturday and could make way for Oudin.

"We're just going to play it by ear," said Fernandez, who has led the US to the Fed Cup final both years she has been in charge.

Asked what sort of pep talk she planned to give to her team going into Sunday's matches, she replied: "Hopefully I'll come up with a real good one. "It's about not so much the outcome but the process, how you play the game, how you're playing your points, controlling what's in your power. If they do that, that's all I can ask for."

Mattek-Sands, who has been remarkably upbeat while representing the US at the Fed Cup over the last two years, maintained a positive outlook for Sunday's matches.

"We're not completely out of it," said the 25-year-old who wore long red stockings, a red headband, a white vest and a blue skirt on Saturday.

"It's just like any other tournament during the season: you lose and you got to play again. Everybody loses every week unless you win the tournament, and there's not that many of those."