Williams Sisters Fed Cup Commitment Under Scrutiny

Updated: September 16, 2010

The U.S.A. will play host to Italy in the Fed Cup final at the San Diego Sports Arena on November 6-7. This marks the first Fed Cup final played in the U.S. in 10 years, and the second consecutive year that the U.S. has faced Italy in the Fed Cup final.

They’ll be looking to avenge their 4-0 loss to Italy in last year’s final with a home court advantage, and playing on hard courts. The U.S. currently holds a 9-1 leads over Italy in their head-to-head race. Liezel Huber, Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands will once again be part of the U.S. Fed Cup lineup for the final, and they will be joined by Venus and Serena Williams.

Mary Joe Fernandez, who took over as U.S. Fed Cup captain in 2009 and has been granted a two-year extension by the USTA, is hoping to lead the U.S. to its first Fed Cup title since 2000.

Both Venus and Serena have said they’ve committed to play in the Fed Cup final in San Diego, but there is legitimate reason for doubt, given their history of backing out of Fed Cup ties at the last minute, as well as their apparent lack of interest. This year is different. The Olympics are now in clear view.

Venus & Serena WilliamsVenus elaborated on her commitment to playing in the Fed Cup final after her semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open. She insists that this year is different from her 2009 wait-and-see-commitment to playing in the Fed Cup final, and then backing out at the last minute due to injury. “Last year, I didn’t commit. I couldn’t go. This year is different. I’ve already said I’d be there,” said Venus. It is worth noting that Venus and Serena Williams have not made themselves available to play Fed Cup since 2007.

When it comes to competing in the Summer Olympics, eligibility hinges on a Fed Cup commitment. According to Olympic rules, a player must make herself available for Fed Cup play twice during a four year Olympic cycle to be eligible to play in the Olympics. For the 2012 summer Olympics, that cycle is 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. One of those availabilities must take place the year before or the year of the Olympics (2011 or 2012).

Upon closer examination, the rules for qualifying for the 2012 Olympics with a Fed Cup commitment are not without caveats.

Caveat #1: If Venus or Serena are on the Fed Cup team roster and are not chosen by Mary Joe Fernandez to play either singles or doubles in the final, that counts as having fulfilled their commitment to play Fed Cup for that year.

Caveat #2: If Venus or Serena are injured just prior to the Fed Cup final after they have committed to play, they would have to be physically present at the location where the tie is taking place in order to fulfill their commitment to play Fed Cup for that year.

What does this mean for the Williams sisters? If either of them follow through on their commitment to play in this year’s Fed Cup final in San Diego, they will need to play again in 2011 and 2012 if they want to remain eligible for the 2012 Summer Olympics, held in London. According to Tim Curry, spokesperson for the USTA, if the U.S. team makes the Fed Cup final in 2012, that tie won’t take place until after the Olympics. That could pose a potential problem for the Williams sisters.

Will either of them show up and play in November? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Paula Vergara is a freelance tennis journalist, covering the WTA and ATP tours. Paula’s publishing credits include On the Baseline Tennis News, Tennis.com, USTA New England Magazine, and Bob Larson’s Tennis News. Paula is also a member of the United States Tennis Writers’ Association. To view her work, visit www.paula-vergara.blogspot.com.


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12 Legacy Comments

  1. Aaress Lawless

    September 16, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    It’s always a guessing game to see which (if either) Williams is really willing to suit up for Fed Cup. In this case, though, it sounds like they might have the extra motivation of the Olympics.

    Still, I wouldn’t hold my breath for Serena, especially with the status of her foot injury being unknown.

  2. Vicki

    September 17, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    MJ will be lucky if she get one of them to play, They know if they make themselves available they’ve for filled their commitment to the team and are eligible to play in the olympics. They are doing nothing wrong in their eyes as it the rules. It might be the rules but it’s not in the team spirit.

  3. TennisAce

    September 20, 2010 at 5:29 am

    This article is such a load of garbage. For one thing how do we even know that Venus or Serena will be fit to play in the Olympics? For another, how do we even know that they will be playing the Olympics. A lot can happen between now and 2010 that have absolutely nothing to do with tennis or the Olympics.

    Further, if a player commits but then turns up injured because they are committing themselves to the WTA Tour, which some people think everyone should do, what happens then?

    Last year Serena and Venus committed to play Fed Cup but then they also had to play the Season Ending Championships in Doha. They were both bandaged from head to toe and barely made it across the finishing line, but yet they were still supposed to suit up on their gimpy legs to fly across the world and play on slow clay. Clearly people do not consider all the things that these athletes have to go through. Phewt.

  4. Don't Bench Me!

    September 20, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Who got the United States to the finals of the Fed Cup?

    I think the USTA should dance with those who played the early rounds of Fed Cup and got them to the party.

    I respect that the Williams sisters are two of the best female tennis players in the world, but I don’t respect the fact that the USTA is so bent on winning a Fed Cup that they would bench the team that took the time and effort to fight their way to the finals for the good ole USA.

    Let that combination of veterans and youngsters finish what they started in the early rounds without the Williams Sisters.

  5. Freddie Smith

    September 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I understand that Venus will have knee surgery and will not play the rest of this year.

  6. Maureen Bessant

    September 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I agree with the comment from ” Don’t bench me” I think the players who made the effort to play in the early rounds should play in the final. The Williams sisters have had their day and I for one ( and their are many others) will be glad to see the back of the prima donnas!!! Thay play ugly tennis and it is not entertaining for me.

  7. The Fan Child

    September 21, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Of course the Williams Sisters will want to play the Olympics. So they will probably want to fulfill these requirements sooner rather than later. My guess is that they’ll be present and accounted for in S.D.

    That being said, I would like to see some kids get some big match experience. Melanie could really use a confidence building win, and yes, it’s true, Melanie and Bethanie and the rest of the gang have put in the hard yards to get the team into its second straight final, so they haven’t been coming up short at all.

    I guess it’s wait and see time. MJ will get it right – I’ve got a lot of faith in her.

  8. Rodney in Atlanta

    September 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Interesting. Serena and Venus have committed to play Fed Cup and have only pulled out when injured. Was everyone so upset the year Venus beat Lindsay in the Wimbledon final and then Venus played Fed Cup the next week but Lindsay was nowhere to be found. Lindsay was injured but of course she gets a pass. Well hate all you want the Williams have been American Tennis period since Roddick last won the US Open in say what 2003. Nell Carter=Gimme a break. I love them hate all you want:)

  9. Paula Vergara

    September 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    TennisAce – Venus and Serena have expressed their interest in competing in the 2012 Olympics on more than a few occasions. Being fit for the Olympics is another matter. Clearly the higher ranked players do have more commitments, with some of those commitments off-court as well, so I do recognize the differences. But Venus and Serena did not play a full schedule of tennis this year or last year, with or without injuries.

    I agree with “Don’t Bench Me!” on the issue of loyalty to those players who did all the hard work to get the team to the finals. MJ Fernandez is in a tough position, but as “The Fan Child” says, “MJ will get it right.”

    Rodney in Altanta: Lindsay Davenport has a stellar (and consistent) record as a Fed Cup player. In fact, Lindsay holds the record for the most number of years played on the US Fed Cup team: 11.

    I find it interesting that Venus and Serena don’t show much interest in representing their country via Fed Cup, but when it comes to representing their country in the Olympics, they suddenly find their patriotism.

    I do agree that Fed Cup ties are a big scheduling problem for WTA players, regardless of country or ranking, but others find ways to make it work.

  10. 10IS42

    September 27, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    It’s very gracious of Serena and Venus to play after all the crap Mattek-Sands and Oudin spewed…If you are an American, a good enough tennis player, want to participate and are chosen for the team, you can play Fed Cup…it’s just that simple… Maybe we won’t get beat down in this final!!!! What’s wrong with Venus and Serena bringing it home … Melanie and Bethany are more worried about keeping the team “that got them there” intact than winning the Fed Cup…bringing the Cup back to America is what’s important…what’s wrong with Serena and Venus running “The Anchor Leg” so to speak…it is supposed to be a team effort anyway…who says it has to be same team…as a matter fact different teams are put together all the time depending on the availability of players…case and point Russia…they should win Fed cup very Year. Bring it home this year USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Jane

    September 27, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Maureen B says it best earlier – will be glad to see the back side of the prima donna’s – hey the USTA financed their abilty to get real coaching from Bolleteri (Seems Richard forgot to talk about the real coaching his daughter’s recieved & received with USTA money).
    Time to bring along players who care about their country and want to give back by playing Fed cup and taking it seriously
    Face it Serena has pedicures to deliver to Oprah and Venus has rooms to decorate – so bring on the younger players in the US and expose them to the trials and tribulations of this event so they rise to become even better players
    Always remember athletes where the cash came from to bring you along – and then give back when successful
    Just my humble opinion in Canada JE Sleeth

  12. 10IS42

    September 28, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Go Venus and Serena!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!