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Stephens, Venus to lead off for U.S. Fed Cup team vs. Poland

February 5, 2016 08:59 PM

By E.J. Crawford, USTA.com

The U.S. Fed Cup team will begin its quest to return to the World Group for 2017 Saturday against Poland, with Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams leading the way.

Stephens, currently ranked No. 25 in the world, will play the first match of the best-of-five-match series against Poland in the World Group II First Round, held at the Holua Tennis Center in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. She will go up against Magda Linette, ranked No. 96, followed by world No. 12 Venus Williams taking on No. 153 Paula Kania.

In Sunday’s reverse singles, Venus is scheduled to lead off against Linette, with Stephens set to take on Kania. The doubles, the last match of the tie, is scheduled to feature Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandewghe going up against the Polish team of player-captain Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and her partner, Alicja Rosolska.

The singles and doubles lineups for Sunday be changed by the team captains prior to Sunday’s play.

The winner of the U.S. versus Poland advances to the 2016 World Group Playoffs, with a chance to return to the World Group and contend for the Fed Cup title in 2017. The loser is relegated to the World Group II Playoffs.

“We’re excited to try and get back in World Group I and win this tie this week,” said Stephens, before switching her focus to the week’s tropical locale, “and excited to be in Hawaii. I would say this is our best tie yet. We have a lot of the motivation to do well here, so we can come back here!”

Stephens is 2-0 in her career against Linette and kicked off her year by winning the title at the Australian Open tune-up in Auckland, New Zealand, but she has played just three Fed Cup singles matches (1-2) in her young career. Nonetheless, U.S. Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez said she had no concerns about Stephens leading off the tie rather than Venus, who is 1-0 against Kania and 17-2 in Fed Cup singles play.

“I think everybody on both teams are used to playing first or second, so it doesn’t make that big of a difference,” Fernandez said. “We know the other players. Some of them have played them already. We’re just excited to start. We’ve practiced a lot already and we’re ready to get going.”

The U.S. is 3-0 against Poland in Fed Cup play, winning all nine individual matches contested in those three ties. The last time the two countries faced off was in Atlanta in 1990, a 3-0 victory for the Americans.

Tennis Channel will present live daily coverage of the U.S. versus Poland World Group II showdown, starting at 4 p.m. ET (11 a.m. local time) on Saturday and 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. local time) on Sunday.

Photo: Team USA and Team Poland gather during Friday's draw ceremony.