USA is no stranger to playing Italy in Fed Cup by BNP Paribas with the two teams having faced off three times in the last five years.
In each of those match-ups, it has been the Italians who have emerged victorious, but US captain Mary Joe Fernandez is hoping to unleash a not-so-secret weapon when the two teams line up against one another next February – Serena Williams.
“We have never played Italy with Serena on the team,” said Fernandez. “Having Serena would be a huge bonus. They [Italy] have been our big nemesis the last few years. They have a lot of depth. They have great singles. They have the No. 1 doubles team in the world. They figure things out.
“We came close last year. It was the first time we were in a position when we could have beat them away. I'm hoping this will be the time. If Serena plays, it obviously makes it that much more likely.”
Italy, the reigning Fed Cup champions after whitewashing Russia in Cagliari last month, will be paying a visit to captain Fernandez’s home town for the 2014 first round clash against USA.
The tie is being contested at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio and it’s safe to say that the American skipper is happy that tennis is coming to her neighbourhood.
“I'm really excited,” she said. “I've been living in Cleveland 12 years the beginning of next year. It's my home now. I've raised my children here. I'm really thrilled that it's actually a really big tennis community.
“When the opportunity came up to have Fed Cup tennis here, of course I lobbied for it, went to talk to everybody. I really think we're going to have a good turnout. I think we're hopefully going to fill up the stadium downtown there.
“I'm getting calls every day about people wanting to buy tickets, how can we help, how can we support. I think hopefully it's going to showcase Cleveland in a better light. People have some misconceptions about our city. It's going to be good for Cleveland. It's going to be good for the Fed Cup.”