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08 February 2013

Errani will play Hampton in Saturday's opener


NEWS ARTICLE

By 

  • Daniella Matar

Photo: Ray GiubiloSara Errani (ITA) and Jamie Hampton (USA)

RIMINI, ITALY: As the Italian side looks to life without veterans Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta, captain Corrado Barazzutti has the luxury of sending out two Top 20 players against a pair of Fed Cup by BNP Paribas debutants in their first round tie against USA in Rimini.

First up for last year's semifinalists will be World No. 7 Sara Errani against Jamie Hampton, who is promoted to a starting position with the absence of the Williams sisters and Sloane Stephens for the visitors. Roberto Vinci takes on Varavra Lepchenko in the second singles rubber on Saturday.

"We're confident, why not," Barazzutti said. "We have very good players. We're playing against a very good team but we're confident to win this match. Looking at rankings, we're favourites, so we're here to win this match.

"The players know they must win and they have that pressure but this is normal for them. They play every day, and in other tournaments they play with pressure, so this time it's the same, but I think they are very concentrated."

USA captain Mary Joe Fernandez knows her players are in for a baptism of fire away at three-time champions Italy and is keen for them to learn from the experience.

"It's a very tough match for sure, but we're as ready as we can be," she said. "We've had a great week of practice, training really hard, getting used to the surface. I'm excited because we have two players playing singles for the first time. It's about managing those emotions and the nerves, because it's very different, it's a unique experience. As tennis players we're used to being on our own week in week out, and now you come together and you feel the support, so I really want them to enjoy it, really take it in.

"The most important thing is for them to focus on things on the court, making the right plays and not so much on the outcome, but on what they can do well, what their strengths are. So if they go out there and compete hard and focus on a few things and not worry about the occasion, then I think they'll do well."

Italy will be favourites at home as they look to score a third successive victory against an American team that they defeated in back-to-back Finals in 2009 and 2010, their first two victories in the head-to-head following nine straight defeats.

But Fernandez feels a shock could be on the cards.

"We've been the underdogs many times, we've been the favourites a few times too," she said. "In team competition you see crazy things happen. We're hoping we can pull off the upset."

However, Errani is determined to get Italy's campaign off to a bang. The 25-year-old has come on leaps and bounds in the last 12 months and is relishing the opportunity to get more on-court action.

"We're ready to play, we want to play," said Errani, who was runner-up at last year's French Open. "Of course they're going to be tough matches but we know that and we will try to do our best.

"This is a team match and we know it, we try to stay together all four of us and we'll see tomorrow. Always there is a bit of pressure, we know they're very strong so we're going to fight a lot. There is the pressure but also we want to play, we're ready to play."

World No. 16 Vinci, who holds the Fed Cup record of 17-0 for winning the most doubles rubbers without defeat, is thrilled to be playing a rare singles match in the tournament.

"It's a little bit different but we're so excited to play," she said. "I've played a lot of time in doubles in Fed Cup, this time I'll play singles so we're very happy. For sure it will be a tough match, lot of pressure but we're ready. We have a lot of experience. We love to play Fed Cup, it's an unbelievable atmosphere.

"We are so confident, we've had a lot of success in doubles and in singles. We're strong now, so we'll see. We have a good ranking but for sure it will be tough because even without Serena, Venus, Sloane, they're for sure a good team. We're favourites but we'll see. It's nice to play in Italy with a lot of fans. I think the stadium will be completely full and that's nice for us. I hope a lot of people will come to support us."

Lepchenko is hoping to pull off a shock and mark her debut by recording at least one victory when she takes on first Vinci and then Errani in Sunday's reverse singles.

"It's great that I have the Olympics under my belt," she said. "Coming here is obviously different and it's a new experience, but it's a team experience. I'm really happy to be making my debut and I'm looking forward to it.

"It's helped me in the past when I've been considered an underdog and I've come out a winner, so I'm looking forward to that!"

The doubles nominations see Nastassja Burnett and Karin Knapp paired together for the first time in the competition with Burnett set to feature in her first Fed Cup tie. It would not be a surprise, however, if the more experienced partnership and Australian Open Champions, Errani and Vinci were called into action should the tie still be on the line. Fed Cup stalwart Liezel Huber has yet another new partner nominated for USA with Melanie Oudin, Stephens' late replacement, set to feature.

The full draw is listed below:

Saturday
R1: Sara Errani (ITA) v Jamie Hampton (USA)
R2: Roberta Vinci (ITA) v Varvara Lepchenko (USA)

Sunday
R3: Sara Errani (ITA) v Varavara Lepchenko (USA)
R4: Roberta Vinci (ITA) v Jamie Hampton (USA)
R5: Nastassja Burnett / Karin Knapp (ITA) v Liezel Huber / Melanie Oudin (USA)

Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live

Sara Errani (ITA)

Captain Mary Joe Fernandez (USA)

Jamie Hampton (USA) - 08/02/2013

Varvara Lepchenko (USA) - 08/02/2013

Roberta Vinci (ITA) - 08/02/2013

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  • More photos

    • Sara Errani (ITA) and Jamie Hampton (USA)The Italian team at the official dinner
    • USA' Varvara Lepchenko gave a rookie speech at the official dinnerItaly's Nastassja Burnett gave a rookie speech at the official dinner
    • ITF's Juan Margets, FIT's Nicola Pietrangeli and USTA's David HaggertyThe USA team at the official dinner
    • Roberta Vinci (ITA)Draw Ceremony
    • Varavara Lepchenko (USA) and Roberta Vinci (ITA)Draw Ceremony
    • Team USA
     
 
  • WORLD GROUP FIRST ROUND

    ITA FlagItaly
    3 : 2
    USA FlagUSA

    105 Stadium, Rimini, Italy

    Full details

  • OUR REPORTER IN RIMINI

    Daniella Matar

    Daniella has worked in journalism in four different countries and interviewed sportspeople in five different languages. Before moving to Italy last year, she worked in England and France as well as Lebanon - where she ended up having a brief stint as a war reporter when the conflict with Israel broke out in 2006. Having grown up in London and begged for Wimbledon tickets every year, she still always gets a hankering for strawberries and cream whenever she sees a tennis match.

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