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Martin Rogers

The Monday Slice: USA needs Williams sisters

Busted Racquet

First serve

United States captain Mary Jo Fernandez is not going to turn around and tell the Williams sisters they are not welcome for November's Fed Cup final in Italy.

Venus Williams admitted this week that she and sister Serena would like to represent the USA after an under-strength team produced a stunning upset in the semifinal against the Czech Republic.

Having the Williamses in the lineup greatly increases the team's chances of lifting the trophy for the first time since 2000, but it also raises the thorny issue of the participation of leading players.

Serena has played only four Fed Cup ties in her career, and none overseas since a semifinal victory in Italy in 1999.

Venus' record is better - she has won 14 out of 16 Fed Cup singles and most recently took part in the 2007 semifinal defeat to Russia.

The biggest victim, if the sisters are selected, would be rookie Alexa Glatch, who produced two sensational victories over the Czech Republic to set up a storied triumph.

Now the 19-year-old is likely to be rewarded by being dumped for what would have been the biggest occasion of her career.

But the problem is that Fernandez has little choice. If she refuses to pick the Williamses after they have stated publicly that they want to play, it is likely they would never make themselves available for Fed Cup again.

And, the USA would almost certainly lose.

Italy is already preparing the slowest clay court possible in order to suit its singles players Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone.

Glatch is an impressive talent, but she would be a huge underdog in such conditions, as would Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Perhaps it is unfortunate that Venus and Serena wield this amount of leverage. But until the USA produces a strong core of players capable of stepping into their shoes, it is inevitable.

Drop shot


Former world No. 3 Guillermo Coria has finally called time on his career at the age of 27. Coria looked set to become one of the clay court greats, but struggled to recover from wasting two match points in his 2004 French Open final defeat to Gaston Gaudio and his ranking plummeted to 672.

Use your frequent flyer miles

Tennis in Serbia once meant playing in an empty swimming pool, making the success of Novak Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic all the more remarkable. Djokovic is the top seed and tournament host for this week's inaugural Serbian Open, to be staged in a picturesque section of Belgrade's beautiful Old Town.

Clean winner

Jelena Dokic's successful return to the WTA Tour may not see her scale the heights of her peak, when she climbed to No. 4 in the world. But her courage and determination in conquering her personal demons must be admired. Last week Dokic spoke for the first time about the extent of the physical abuse she had received from her controversial father, Damir Dokic, in her teenage years.

Last week's results

Internazionali BNL D'Italia: Rafael Nadal
Porsche Grand Prix, Stuttgart: Svetlana Kuznetsova
Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem, Fes: Anabel Medina Garrigues

This week's predictions

Estoril Open, Estoril: David Ferrer
BMW Open, Munich: Nicolas Almagro
Serbian Open, Belgrade: Novak Djokovic
Estoril Open, Estoril: Sabine Lisicki
Internazionali BNL D'Italia: Ana Ivanovic

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