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Sisters put pop in Fed Cup
By Dan Ventura
April 25 2003
The Boston Herald

There's one simple reason why this weekend's Fed Cup tickets have sold at a record pace: the announcement on Feb. 15 that Serena and Venus Williams committed to playing for the U.S. team.

The commitment of the local public is a testament to the drawing power of the Williams sisters. The two have become a mega-industry in their own right, both appearing on the prestigious Forbes Power-100 list and inking some of the most lucrative commercial contracts (Venus recently signed a five-year, $40 million deal with Reebok) in the sports world.

``Serena and Venus have transcended tennis,'' said women's tennis legend Billie Jean King, who will captain the U.S. team this weekend against the Czech Republic at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell. ``Everyone knows who they are and whenever the two of them come to an event, it's sold out.''

Joining the Williams sisters on the U.S. team are Meghann Shaughnessy (ranked No. 19 in the world) and rookie Alexandra Stevenson (No. 27). King, who has had some personnel problems in recent history, is thrilled with the squad she has assembled and loves the interaction of the four players.

``We have great team chemistry, everyone really likes one another,'' said King, who will be assisted by former Wimbledon finalist Zina Garrison. ``I don't think I've ever been around a team that has had as much fun.''

King's presence was one of the key selling points for Serena Williams, who is playing Fed Cup for the first time since 1999 when she helped the U.S. defeat Russia for the title.

``I'm really happy to be playing Fed Cup. It's a great opportunity for me to work with Billie Jean King, one of the greatest players ever,'' said Serena, who is 21-1 on the WTA Tour this year. ``It's also fun to be part of a team because tennis is an individualistic sport.''

The most experienced player on the team is Venus Williams. The third-ranked player in the world, Venus also competed in 1999 and won five of her six matches against Italy (a 4-1 U.S. win) and Russia (also 4-1). After a three-year sabbatical, Venus Williams was more than ready to return to Fed Cup.

``I think it's important for everyone to try and play Fed Cup, but sometimes it's hard because we do take breaks during the year,'' Venus said. ``I enjoy working with Billie Jean because I learn so much from her - I always play better after Fed Cup because of her.''

The only U.S. player who played in the qualifying rounds was Shaughnessy. She appeared in matches against Austria (3-2) and Israel (5-0), splitting her two matches. Like the Williams sisters, much of the appeal of playing Fed Cup comes from playing for King.

``She is just an unbelievable role model for all of us,'' said Shaughnessy, who defeated Venus Williams in Miami last month. ``Growing up, you hear so much about her and it's great just to be around her.''

Stevenson, 22, is the rookie of the group, the only player without Fed Cup experience. She burst onto the tennis scene in 1999 when she became the first female qualifier to reach the Wimbledon semifinals, and has been chomping at the bit for a chance to represent her country.

``I wanted to play so badly, but I knew I was a borderline choice,'' Stevenson said. ``I was so glad that the other four girls ranked ahead of me decided not to play.''

The Americans will face a Czech squad which already has suffered one setback. Denisa Chladkova, the top-ranked player from the Czech Republic (No. 40 in the world), decided not to play, preferring to remain home and concentrate on her struggling game. Daja Bedanova (No. 44) will be the No. 1 singles player for the visitors and is joined by Iveta Benesova, Klara Koulakova and Eva Birnerova.

Koulakova opened some eyes with her play in the qualifier against Canada, defeating both Jana Nejedly and Marie-Eve Pelletier in a 5-0 win. Benesova also competed against Canada, defeating Pelletier in a third-set tiebreaker. Bedanova returns to Fed Cup play after a two-year absence.
 

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Record sell-out event?! WOW!!! Venus and Serena are sure popular!!
GO GIRLS! :D
 

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The other possible reason the tickets have sold like wildfire is that the paying public know they're going to watch a event where there's not even the remotest chance that the home team could end up losing. Instead, it's a day out where you get to watch your favourite American players beat up on weaker Continental opposition. Is there any other activity more thrilling to the human soul?
 

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Oh please...the sell-out is because of me. People can't get enough of seeing me up-close and in the flesh. I can't really blame them. I am an icon.
 

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My God, my post above got me docked 19 reputation points! And infiniti2001, how dare you yawn mercilessly at my suggestion that the one-sidedness of the contest is what so appeals to spectators? It works for the Williams sisters elsewhere in America... *is now confident that this last remark will probably lead to more negative reputation points*
 

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:::Yawns Mercilessly:::

Boston does not have a professional tennis tournament, so of course tennis fans will come out in droves when pros come to town. Do you think that teams/countries choose who they play against?? :rolleyes:
 

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It used to have a tournament, only a few years ago. And of course they don't choose who they play against, but when the USA enters the Fed Cup it has to be reasonably confident - sorry, super confident - that it's going to win every single time. Barring personality clashes between slightly rotund individuals, of course, like last year.
 
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