The USTA and U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez have announced that 2013 Australian Open semifinalist Sloane Stephens will be joined by Varvara Lepchenko, Jamie Hampton, and world number eight doubles player Liezel Huber in representing the United States against Italy in the 2013 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group First Round at 105 Stadium in Rimini, Italy, Feb. 9-10. Stephens is expected to make her Fed Cup singles debut while Lepchenko and Hampton are being named to the team for the first time.
Italian Fed Cup Captain Corrado Barazzutti named world number seven Sara Errani, world number 16 Roberta Vinci, Karin Knapp and Nastassja Burnett to the Italian team. Errani and Vinci won the 2013 Australian Open doubles title.
The best-of-five match series begins on Saturday, Feb. 9, with two singles matches and is followed by two reverse singles matches and the doubles match on Sunday, Feb. 10. Tennis Channel will present daily coverage beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.
The match will mark the 12th matchup between the U.S. and Italy in Fed Cup competition. The two countries last met in the 2010 Fed Cup final in San Diego and also faced each other in the 2009 final in Reggio Calabria, Italy, both won by the Italians. The U.S., however, leads the overall series, 9-2. The U.S. last won against Italy in the 2003 World Group quarterfinal in Washington D.C. The winner of this tie will advance to the semifinals, held April 20-21.
“I am excited to welcome some new, young players to the U.S. Fed Cup team when we travel on the road to face Italy and begin our 2013 quest for the Fed Cup,” said U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez. “Italy is a championship team and always plays well in Fed Cup competition, but I have confidence in the players on this team and know that they will all be ready to compete hard for the U.S.”
Stephens, 19, is currently ranked a career-high 17th in the world after reaching the semifinals of the 2013 Australian Open, where she defeated Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. At 19 years, 10 months, 3 days old, Stephens was the youngest American to reach a Grand Slam singles semifinal since Williams reached the 2000 Wimbledon semifinals at 18 years, 9 months, 8 days old. Stephens was also the first American woman other than Serena Williams or Venus Williams to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Lindsay Davenport at Wimbledon in 2005. In 2012, Stephens reached the fourth round at the French Open, the third round at Wimbledon and the third round of the US Open, defeating Italy’s Francesca Schiavone in the first round in Flushing Meadows. With her results in 2012, Stephens finished the year at No. 38 in the world, making her the youngest player and the only teenager in the year-end Top 50. She is the daughter of the late New England Patriots running back John Stephens and trains with the USTA Player Development Program at the USTA’s Training Center-West in Carson, Calif. She made her Fed Cup debut in the 2012 World Group Playoff in Ukraine, winning in doubles with Huber. Stephens has not competed in singles in Fed Cup.
Lepchenko, 26, will be making her Fed Cup debut and is currently ranked No. 21 in the world. She peaked at a career-high No. 19 in October 2012, becoming the first American other than Venus and Serena Williams to be ranked in the Top 20 since Lindsay Davenport in 2006. Lepchenko reached the fourth round of the 2012 French Open—her best result at a Grand Slam event—which qualified her for the U.S. Olympic team. She also reached the third round of both the 2012 Wimbledon Championships and the US Open, losing to defending champion Samantha Stosur in Flushing Meadows. A native of Uzbekistan, Lepchenko has been living in the U.S. since 2001 after receiving political asylum, and she officially changed her nationality in 2007 to play for the U.S. She became an official U.S. citizen in September 2011. Lepchenko trains full-time at the USTA Training Center-East at the home of the US Open in Flushing, N.Y.
Hampton, 23, is also making her Fed Cup debut and is ranked a career-high No. 62 in the world after reaching the third round of the 2013 Australian Open—her best Grand Slam result—before losing to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka in three sets. Hampton reached the semifinals of the 2013 Australian Open tune-up event in Auckland, New Zealand, upsetting No. 4 seed Zheng Jie in the first round. Hampton won her first-ever Grand Slam main draw match after qualifying for the 2012 Australian Open, and later that year she upset No. 27 seed Daniela Hantuchova in the first round of Wimbledon. Following the 2012 US Open, Hampton qualified for back-to-back WTA events in Korea and Japan, and ended the year by reaching the quarterfinals of the WTA event in Osaka, Japan. Hampton climbed more than 550 spots in the WTA rankings in 2010 by reaching the final at eight USTA Pro Circuit events, with four tournament titles.
Huber, 36, has won eight of her 10 career doubles matches for the U.S. Fed Cup team, including tie-clinching semifinal matches in both 2009 and 2010 with partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Currently ranked No. 8 in the world in doubles, Huber owns five Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, including the 2011 US Open title, and won the 2010 US Open mixed doubles title with Bob Bryan. Born in South Africa, Huber spent four years on the South African Fed Cup team (1998-2000, ’03), where she posted a 9-3 overall record (9-2 doubles) in 12 ties. She became a U.S. citizen on July 25, 2007, with the hopes of playing for the U.S. at the 2008 Olympic Games (where she teamed with Lindsay Davenport to reach the doubles quarterfinals). Huber also represented the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics, where she reached the bronze medal match with Lisa Raymond. Huber and Martina Navratilova are the only players in Fed Cup history to have represented another nation before playing for the U.S.