By Richard Pagliaro - Five of the top 10 women in the world are American, but four of them have declined to represent the United States in the Fed Cup final. Tennis Week has learned that top-ranked Jennifer Capriati, third-ranked Lindsay Davenport, fourth-ranked Venus Williams and ninth-ranked Serena Williams have declined to play the Fed Cup final, which will be staged November 7-11th.
A year ago, the American team of Davenport, Monica Seles, Lisa Raymond and Capriati beat Belgium in the semifinals before sweeping Spain in the final, 5-0, to earn its 17th Fed Cup championship in 38 years. In the final, Capriati teamed with Raymond to defeat the Spanish doubles duo of Virginia Ruano-Pascual and Magui Serna, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Capriati also scored a 6-1, 1-0 victory over Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, who retired with gastroenteritis in the second set.
The Williams sisters did not play Fed Cup last year though they did represent the U.S. at the Olympics where Venus won the gold medal in singles and teamed with sister Serena to strike gold in doubles.
Davenport was been one of the world's dominant Fed Cup players in recent years. The third-ranked Davenport has produced a 21-2 record in her seven-year Fed Cup career and helped carry the team to victory last year with singles wins over Sanchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez in the final. Sidelined by injuries earlier in the year, Davenport's decision to forgo the final may be due to the fact that the event will most likely be held on red clay — her least favorite surface.
The absence of the foursome leaves U.S. captain Billie Jean King with the prospect of building her team around the resurgent Monica Seles, who captured her third straight title on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Australian Nicole Pratt in the final of the Kiwi Open. It was the 51st title of Seles career. The eighth-ranked Seles has always answered the call to play Fed Cup when healthy in the past. In an interview prior to the U.S. Open, Seles was asked if she planned to play Fed Cup and she replied: "I've always loved to play Fed Cup and play for Billie Jean King. It's an honor to play for your country and I would like to play if I were asked."
Meghann Shaughnessy, ranked 12th, could complement Seles as another singles player on the U.S. squad. Though Shaughnessy was upset by Spain's Magui Serna 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Filderstadt, Germany last week, she is enjoying the best year of her career. With a strong serve and effective forehand, Shaughnessy's game is better suited to fast surfaces, but her speed and court coverage make her a capable clay court player.
Raymond, ranked No. 1 in doubles and No. 30 in singles, could reprise her role as a doubles player on the U.S. team. After Raymond, the highest-ranked Americans are Chanda Rubin (No. 36), Amy Frazier (No. 41) and Meileen Tu (No. 49). Rubin has struggled with nagging injuries this year, while Frazier has not participated in Fed Cup in recent years.
[ October 15, 2001: Message edited by: Josh ]