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US to face Belgians without Venus in Fed Cup

Venus Williams receives medical attention during her third round match against Andrea Petkovic of Germany at the Australian Open. (GETTY)


American women will have a tough time in their first-round Fed Cup matchup, US captain Mary Joe Fernandez said on Tuesday in announcing a lineup for the tie at Belgium that lacks Venus Williams.

“We will have our work cut out for us,” Fernandez said of facing a Belgian side expected to include US Open champion Kim Clijsters and veteran Justine Henin.
“They are two of the best players to play the game. You really approach it all you can as one unique match and you try to do everything you can to disrupt everything those two great players do.”
The Americans will face Belgium in a quarter-final tie February 5-6 on an indoor hardcourt at Antwerp.
The US squad will feature 48th-ranked Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 64th-ranked Melanie Oudin, 88th-ranked Vania King and Liezel Huber, ranked third overall in doubles, one place ahead of King.
“We have great faith in the team and their capabilities,” Fernandez said.
Williams had been planning to play for the American team before suffering a hip injury at the Australian Open.
“Venus was going to play and unfortunately she got hurt during the Australian Open,” Fernandez said. “(I was) just confirming with her a couple days ago that she wouldn’t be able to go.”
Fourth-ranked Serena Williams and fifth-ranked sister Venus Williams missed last year’s 3-1 Fed Cup final loss to Italy with injuries. It was the second loss in as many years to the Italians in the trophy-deciding showdown.
American teams have won a record 17 Fed Cup titles, but the most recent was in 2000.
The Americans are 5-1 in all-time Fed Cup matches against Belgium, winning their most recent meeting 5-0 in the 2007 quarter-finals, played on an outdoor hardcourt in Delray Beach, Florida.
In their only meeting on Belgian soil, the Americans lost in a 2006 semifinal.