U.S. remains favored against Belgium

Updated: April 22, 2005, 4:32 PM ET
Reuters

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Serena Williams, who is nursing an ankle injury, will be replaced by her sister Venus on the American team for this weekend's Fed Cup tie against Belgium in Florida.

"It was my decision," U.S. captain Zina Garrison told reporters on Friday. "Serena was willing to play. She wanted to go, but after watching her practice this week, I felt she needed a few more days. Fortunately, we have the luxury of having so many great players to step up."

In the first match, top-ranked Lindsay Davenport plays world No. 392 Evelyne Van Hyfte, who is making her Fed Cup debut and is ranked 392nd.

Venus will meet 34-year-old Els Callens in the second match.

Venus will play Van Hyfte on Sunday followed by Davenport against Callens before Davenport and Corina Morariu meet Callens and Leslie Butkiewicz in the doubles.

"I should be a decent fill-in player," Venus told reporters.

Serena twisted her ankle two weeks ago at a tournament in Amelia Island and was forced to pull out.

"Zina made the best decision for me and the team. I have full faith in her and what she thinks," Serena said.

Even without Serena, the U.S. is a heavy favorite to win the quarterfinal as Belgium is without its top two players, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, who both recently came back from injuries.

"You only need to look at the rankings," Belgium captain Carl Maes said. " It doesn't take a lot of calculation. You've got four number one players, if you take Corina as the No. 1 doubles player, and on the bench I think Zina was the No. 1 junior player."

Maes had hoped to play former junior No. 1 Kirsten Flipkens in the singles but she has only just returned from a back injury.

"The whole preparation and emphasis has been on having a very good training week, because we know that the results will be very difficult to achieve," Maes said.

The United States has won the Fed Cup a record 17 times, though not since 2000.