Eye on Olympics
The lure of Olympic glory appears be the driving force behind many of the top players choosing to participate in this year's Fed Cup. Why else would world number one Serena Williams help the United States whitewash the Czech Republic 5-0 in the first round but then opt out of the tie against Italy this weekend?
The premier team competition in women's tennis should be a showcase for the best talent in the sport, but instead many players appear to be using the event merely as a step towards fulfilling their Olympic dreams.
Before the tie against the Czechs in April, Serena and her elder sister Venus had abandoned the American Fed Cup cause since the 1999 final.
Having guided the U.S. to their 16th title with victory over Russia four years ago, the pair went on to enjoy a successful run at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Venus, then the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion, put a golden finish on a dream season by winning the Olympic gold in the singles. She then joined forces with Serena to also capture the doubles title.
"It was very exciting. I remember watching the Olympics at home as a kid. It was one of the dreams of my dad to win an Olympic medal," said Venus following that win.
But having achieved their Olympic goal, the Williamses chose to ignore U.S. Fed Cup captain Billie Jean King's call -- until this year anyway.
According to the rules, in order to play in the Games, a player needs to have made herself available to play Fed Cup for her country two of the preceding four years.
In order to qualify for Athens, Venus and Serena would have to play the event in 2003 and 2004.
By appearing in the first round, Serena has already fulfilled her requirement for the year. Although Venus had made herself available for the Italian tie, an abdominal strain ruled her out of the clash.
But the Williams sisters are not the only ones to turn their backs on the competition.
After steering Belgium to their first Fed Cup title in 2001, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne both decided to concentrate on their individual careers last year and condemned their nation to a quarter-final exit at the hands of Italy.
They are back in the Belgian team for this weekend's quarter-finals, though.
Reluctance to play in the team competition is not confined to women's tennis, though.
Before his victory at Wimbledon earlier this month, Roger Federer was adamant that Davis Cup success was not his priority for the year.
"I'd rather win a slam (than the Davis Cup) because I travel on my own all year and in the end I'm playing an individual sport," the Swiss number one said prior to his country's showdown with France in April.
With numerous female professionals sharing Federer's sentiment, it is doubtful their attitude towards the Fed Cup is likely to change in the near future.
Well, this is something I noticed too, it seems there's not enough proud involved on the women's side.
However they are partly wrong about the Belgians. They did both play in the first round of the Fed Cup last year, and by winning making sure Belgium would remain in the World Group this year