To Lead U.S. Fed Cup Team
By Ossian Shine
LONDON (May 3) -- U.S. Fed Cup captain Billie Jean King is hopeful Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion Venus Williams will lead the U.S. charge back into the World Group of the women's team competition.
A first-round defeat at home to Austria was the climax of a disastrous three days for the Americans last weekend when Jennifer Capriati was thrown off the team for breaking team rules regarding private coaching sessions.
They were forced to forfeit one match and then Monica Seles and Meghann Shaughnessy were beaten by Barbara Schwartz to end U.S. involvement in the women's team event.
On Friday, the U.S. were drawn at home to Israel for the play-offs on July 20-21. The winners will play in the world group next year while the losers will end up in a regional qualifying group.
King is convinced she will have no problem recruiting for the face-saving mission. Capriati already had said she would be unavailable in July before her bust-up with King.
"I would say (the chances) look decent," King said. "I think we have a good chance with Venus to play for sure.
"I think Lisa (Raymond) would probably be available, Meghann (Shaughnessy) would probably be available. I haven't got there yet.
"But I have talked to Venus about at least playing this year at some juncture, and she said most likely if she could play, it would be July."
King did stress Venus had not committed to the team, but she remains hopeful.
Younger sister Serena was less forthcoming. "Serena didn't give me an answer as to whether she'd be interested or not," King said.
"Venus was more forthcoming with, 'Yeah, I think I want to play.' Serena said ask her when it's closer to the time."
The Williams sisters teamed up to win Olympic gold in the women's doubles for the U.S. in Sydney 2000 after Venus had won individual gold.
Other ties drawn at the International Tennis Federation's London headquarters on Friday see Argentina visit Hungary, Australia host the Netherlands and last year's runners-up Russia visit China.
Elsewhere, the Czech Republic welcome Canada, Colombia entertain Japan, Slovenia host Ukraine and Switzerland travel to Sweden.
05/03/02 08:59 EDT
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