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Venus, Stephens to lead Team USA against Poland in Fed Cup

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 19: Venus Williams of the United States plays a forehand in her first round match against Johanna Konta of Great Britain during day two of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 19, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
January 27, 2016 12:10 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

Team USA will turn to seven-time Grand Slam women’s singles champion Venus Williams and a squad of Fed Cup veterans as it looks to get back into the World Group.

Williams was one of four players named by captain Mary Joe Fernandez to face Poland in the BNP Paribas World Group II first round next month, held for the first time in Hawaii.

Joining former world No. 1 Williams are 2013 Australian Open semifinalist and current Top 30 player Sloane Stephens, world No. 42 CoCo Vandeweghe and world No. 3 doubles standout Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

The best-of-five match series will be played at the Holua Tennis Center at the Holua Resort at Mauna Loa Village in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Feb. 6-7. This will be the U.S.’s first home tie since 2014 in St. Louis, as the team competed on the road in Argentina and Italy in 2015.

The winner of this match advances to the World Group Playoff, held April 16-17, to compete for a spot in the 2017 World Group. The losing nation will play in the World Group II Playoff in April to remain in World Group II in 2017.

Poland Fed Cup player-captain Klaudia Jans-Ignacik named world No. 93 Magda Linette, No. 159 Paula Kania and No. 1,277 Alicja Rosolska to face the U.S. Poland’s top-ranked player, world No. 4 and 2016 Australian Open semifinalist Agnieszka Radwanska, is missing from the squad, as is sister Urszula, the country’s third-ranked player at No. 108 overall.

“We have great variety and depth on our team for Hawaii,” said Fernandez. “I am thrilled to have Venus, one of tennis’ greatest champions, competing for us. Sloane had a strong start to the season and CoCo and Bethanie are both playing really well in singles and doubles. Poland brings a skilled team and we look forward to competing. We are very excited to bring Fed Cup tennis to Hawaii for the first time and for the fans to come cheer us on.”

Confidence will be high within the Team USA camp. In 2015, Williams posted her first Top 10 season in five years, and world No. 26 Stephens is coming off her second career title, at the 2016 Australian Open tune-up event in Auckland, New Zealand.

Vandeweghe advanced to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2015 for her career-best result, and Mattek-Sands won the 2015 Australian Open and French Open women’s doubles titles (with Lucie Safarova) and the French Open mixed doubles title (with Mike Bryan). Mattek-Sands is also ranked No. 63 in singles.

All four women have experience playing Fed Cup. Williams, a member of the title-winning team in 1999, holds a 21-4 overall record in Fed Cup competition, including a 17-2 record in singles; Stephens has played in three Fed Cup ties for the U.S.; Vandeweghe was named to the U.S. Fed Cup team for the 2010 final versus Italy and for the 2015 World Group II First Round in Argentina; and Mattek-Sands holds a 3-0 record in Fed Cup doubles, including the clincher that delivered the U.S. to the 2010 Fed Cup final.

The United States holds a 3-0 record over Poland in Fed Cup play. The U.S. last faced Poland in the 1990 World Group First Round in Atlanta, sweeping the tie, 3-0. The U.S., who also faced Poland in 1974 and 1980, has never lost an individual match in Fed Cup to Poland.

Play begins on Saturday, Feb. 6, with two singles matches featuring each country’s No. 1 player against the other country’s No. 2 player. Sunday’s schedule features two “reverse singles” matches, where the No. 1 players square off and then the No. 2 players meet, followed by the doubles match. Play on Saturday begins at 11 a.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) and on Sunday at 10 a.m. local time (3 p.m. ET). Tennis Channel will present daily coverage.

The United States leads all nations with 17 Fed Cup titles, the last coming in 2000. The U.S. is 37-6 all-time in Fed Cup ties played at home and holds an overall 144-36 record.