Injuries, visa problems overshadow Russia's Fed Cup tie with U.S.

Jul 14, 2007 - 7:28 PM STOWE, Vermont (Ticker) -- Venus Williams will have to be at the top of her game to end the United States' drought in the Fed Cup.

The recently crowned Wimbledon champion, Williams squares off with Nadia Petrova in the Americans' semifinal tie with Russia on Saturday.

While she has made the trip to the hard court on the Stadium at Topnotch, Williams' younger sister Serena was forced to drop out due to the wrist injury she sustained at the All England Club.

That is a major hit for the chances of the U.S., which has not made it to the finals of the Fed Cup since 2003, and has not won the event since 2000. The Russians are also not without their lack of star players, as reigning U.S. Open champion Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova were also unable to compete due to injuries.

Due to those absences, 18-year-old American Vania King was forced to face Anna Chakvetadze in the opening match of Saturday's two singles, dropping a 6-1, 6-3 decision.

Williams will look to level the tie against Petrova, a player she has had a great deal of success against in the past. The six-time Grand Slam champion is 3-0 all-time against the Russian.

Williams did win both of her singles matches in the 5-0 victory over Belgium in the first round in April.

Sunday's reverse singles will have Williams open against Chakvetadze before King takes on Petrova.

In doubles match on Sunday, King and top doubles player Lisa Raymond will face Petrova and Elena Vesnina.

This is the sixth all-time tie between both nations. Russia, which has won two of the last three Fed Cup titles, collected its first win in the previous matchup in the semifinals in 2005.

In the other semifinal between defending champion Italy and France on clay in Castellaneta Marina, Italy, Francesca Schiavone once again got the best of Amelie Mauresmo with a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

With her latest win over the world No. 6 player, Schiavone forced a 1-1 tie after Frenchwoman Tatiana Golovin topped Tathiana Garbin, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, in the early singles match.

Ranked 31st in the world, Schiavone defeated Mauresmo for the third straight time, including a win in a 4-1 first-round victory over France in last year's Fed Cup as Italy went on to capture its first title.

The two reserve singles and lone doubles match will be played on Sunday. Schiavone, who has won five of her last seven singles matches in the event, will face Golovin.

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