| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

The USTA and U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez has announced that Melanie Oudin will replace Sloane Stephens on the United States Fed Cup team for the 2013 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group First Round in Rimini, Italy, set for Feb. 9-10. Oudin joins Fed Cup rookies Varvara Lepchenko and Jamie Hampton as well as doubles stalwart Liezel Huber.

"Melanie is such a team player to answer the call at the 11th hour. She has played some of her best tennis in Fed Cup,” said Fernandez, who is in her fifth year as U.S. Fed Cup Captain. “We were excited for Sloane to make her Fed Cup singles debut, but that will have to wait for another day.”

The 21-year-old Oudin was scheduled to play in the $100,000 Dow Corning Classic, a USTA Pro Circuit event in Midland, Mich. this week. She led the United States to the Fed Cup Final in 2009 and 2010 (both runner-up finishes to Italy). Overall, Oudin has played in seven Fed Cup ties and has a 5-8 singles record in the competition. The Marietta, Ga., native is currently ranked 85th in the world and won her first career WTA Tour singles title last year in Birmingham, Great Britain, defeating former number one Jelena Jankovic in the final.

Stephens suffered an abdominal strain during her run to the Australian Open semifinals last month.

"I’m terribly disappointed that I won’t be able to play for my country in Italy,” said Stephens, who is ranked a career-high 17th in the WTA Tour Rankings and is 10-3 this year. “I played a lot more matches than I expected in four straight weeks in Australia and need to be careful not to let this ab injury sideline me for a long time.”