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Shaughnessy Ready for Italians in Fed Cup

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Shaughnessy Ready for Italians in Fed Cup

Photo By Cynthia Lum By Andre Christopher

Meghann Shaughnessy is the only member of the U.S. Fed Cup team taking on Italy this weekend in Washington, D.C., who has been a member of the last four U.S. squads. The team rules, practices, off-court fun and pageantry are old hat. Knowing from Day One that she will be playing singles during the weekend … well, that is a first.

This will not be Shaughnessy’s first time playing Fed Cup singles. In her Fed Cup debut last year, she played against Austria in the first round. But those were unexpected – if not unusual – circumstances, with Shaughnessy being forced into a singles role alongside Monica Seles after Jennifer Capriati was dismissed from the team for a rules violation. With the United States already down 2-0 against Austria, Shaughnessy played the pivotal third match against Barbara Schwartz, losing 4-6, 7-6 (7), 9-7 as Austria went on to a 3-2 victory.

“It’s very different; Charlotte was my rookie [appearance] in Fed Cup,” Shaughnessy said Wednesday. “I’m definitely more experienced, I’ve been around longer and I’m expecting to play this time. So it’s definitely going to be different. … I’m nervous, but at the same time, I’m so excited.”

She has played only Fed Cup doubles since the 2002 first round, teaming with Lisa Raymond to cap the United States’ 5-0 victory against Israel last year in the World Group qualifying round. Shaughnessy was named to this year's first round team that played the Czech Republic in Lowell, Mass., but she did not play.

Interestingly, the rule that got Capriati booted off the team last year in Charlotte, has been amended for this quarterfinal tie, being played at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center. Capriati was dismissed after scheduling an individual practice session with her coach (and father), Stefano Capriati. U.S. Fed Cup captain Billie Jean King’s rules stated that individual coaching sessions were not allowed; coaches were not allowed at practice. But for this tie, at least, players are allowed one practice session a day with their personal coaches, if they so choose.

“For me, I like it,” Shaughnessy said. “I’ve been with Rafael (Font de Mora) since I was 13. years old. We have a system down. We know what I want to do before I play a match; we know how I want to prepare the whole week in advance. It’s just like he’s my other half. When he’s around, I feel much more comfortable. It’s great for me to have that extra session here. I’m going to be more prepared for the weekend and better prepared for the rest of the summer.

“… On the other hand, not having anybody else and just having Billie Jean and Zina (Garrison, team coach) out there on the court with the four of us, it really creates that team atmosphere.”

Shaughnessy is the U.S. No. 2 this week to Chanda Rubin’s No. 1. Both have dominating records against their expected opponents, Francesca Schiavone and Rita Grande. Shaughnessy, in fact, has been merciless in her two career matches against Schiavone, her likely Saturday opponent and the Italian No. 1. Shaughnessy won her third career title by defeating Schiavone 6-1, 6-1 in the Canberra final in January. A couple of months later, Shaughnessy won 6-2, 6-1 in the quarterfinals at Scottsdale.

“Her game matches up well against the Italians,” Raymond said. “The fact that she was thrown into that situation in Charlotte – she has that experience – it’s only going to help her. The fact that she has been out there, she has played in a live tie before and has played in a live match, we all have total faith in her and Chanda.”

The U.S. team should benefit from the withdrawal earlier this week of Italian No. 1 Silvia Farina Elia, who has a left foot injury. She is one of only three Italian players – the only one active – to have won a singles match against the United States in Fed Cup. More pertinently, she defeated Shaughnessy in their only previous meeting, and although Rubin leads their head-to-head 3-2, Farina Elia won their last match-up, upsetting Rubin three weeks ago in the third round of Wimbledon.

Of course, the U.S. team has had to negotiate injury, too. Venus Williams, the first player named to the U.S. team for this tie, had to withdraw because of an abdominal strain. Monica Seles, who was named to the team concurrently with Raymond and Shaughnessy, had to pull out because of a persistent foot injury.

“We’re just going to play our best and, hopefully, come through with a win,” Shaughnessy said.
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