Italy routs Williams-less US team to win Fed Cup
The Williams sisters were conspicuous by their absence on Sunday when Italy completed a shutout of the United States to win its second Fed Cup title in four years. Yet the Americans who did play had no regrets and the victorious Italians felt there was no need to put an asterisk next to their victory. "I wanted to come here. I wanted to play for my country. Other people choose different things," U.S. Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin said after her 7-5, 6-2 loss to Flavia Pennetta gave Italy an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five series. "Some people I guess didn't want to play as badly as I did. But I think that the team that we had here really wanted to be here," Oudin said. "You don't want people here that don't want to be here. Even if you lose, if you give it everything you have, then that's the best you can do." The 11th-ranked Pennetta and the 16th-ranked Francesca Schiavone also scored straight-set singles victories Saturday on the outdoor clay court at the Rocco Polimeni club. The fourth singles rubber was canceled and Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci completed the 4-0 shutout by edging Liezel Huber and Vania King in doubles 4-6, 6-3, and 11-9 in a champions tiebreaker. Top-ranked Serena Williams and sister Venus had decided not play in the Fed Cup final before meeting in the season-ending tour championships final last weekend. The Italians beat France in the opening round and ousted defending champion Russia in the semifinals, but still faced questions over the value of their victory without the Williams sisters. "We're the world champions, it's simple," Pennetta said. "We've played against some great teams this year." Pennetta and Vinci skipped an elite second-tier season-ending tournament in Bali this week, giving up potential rankings points and valuable prize money in the process. "To represent your country it's something very different," Pennetta said. "We always play for ourselves. Here it's completely different." Without the Williamses, Oudin was the highest-ranked American at No. 49. Alexa Glatch - No. 132 - played second singles. "The main goal is to build the new generation," U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. "You've seen the new generation this year. There are many other young players coming along as well." Still, the Americans don't want to close the door for the Williams sisters. "Serena and Venus are just a different story," Fernandez added. "If they are willing and able to participate, I think that's a great experience for everybody involved in it to learn from." Pennetta opened the series by beating Glatch and Schiavone made it 2-0 with a win over the 18-year-old Oudin. Oudin said she let her team and country down by losing twice. But after scoring an important point against the Czech Republic in the semifinals and having the experience of playing No. 1 singles here, she also had something to be enthusiastic about for the future. "I think this was a great experience for me," she said. "I'm going to look back on it and someday when I'm in a Fed Cup final again, hopefully I'll be able to pull out the win. It will go my way instead of theirs next time." The U.S. has won a record 17 Fed Cups, but its last title came in 2000. Italy won its first Fed Cup title in 2006 over Belgium and Justine Henin, and lost the 2007 final to Russia. The Italians celebrated this time by launching captain Corrado Barazzutti up and down into the air, then ran around the court dousing each other with bottles of champagne and water. "These girls are incredible," Barazzutti said. "The first victory was extraordinary and this second one goes beyond expectations." The young Americans see the Italians as a model to emulate. "They are a real team, and I think that is what has really helped them this year," Oudin said. "They do it extremely well. I think that's a huge part of Fed Cup."