USA without Williams sisters

  • Last Updated: January 31 2013, 11:10 GMT

USA will be without both Williams sisters for their Fed Cup World Group first-round trip to Italy next month.

Serena Williams: Hurt her back during the Australian Open
Serena Williams: Hurt her back during the Australian Open

Serena hurt her back during the recent Australian Open while Venus is also absent from Mary Joe Fernandez's four-woman team.

She instead picks teenage sensation Sloane Stephens, who knocked Serena out of the first Grand Slam of the season at the quarter-final stage, Varvara Lepchenko, Jamie Hampton and Liezel Huber.

Italy have left out former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone for the claycourt tie in Rimini.

With Flavia Pennetta currently injured, the Italians have chosen Karin Knapp and the uncapped Nastassja Burnett in their team, one which is led by Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci. The latter duo are both ranked in the top 20 in singles and are currently rated the world's top doubles team.

Defending champions Czech Republic had already named an unchanged side from November's final success over Serbia.

World number eight Petra Kvitova will lead them at home to Australia, with Lucie Safarova, Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova making up the team.

Australia's new captain Alicia Molik has chosen 16-year-old Ashleigh Barty in her side, one led by former US Open champion Sam Stosur.

In the bottom half of the draw, Russia are without their top two, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova, for their trip to Japan.

They are instead led by world number 15 Maria Kirilenko with Ekaterina Makarova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina making up the side.

The hosts include 42-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm in their line-up.

The winners of that tie will face either the Slovak Republic or Serbia in April's semi-finals.

Serbians regulars Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic will both play in what looks set to be a very competitive tie. Dominika Cibulkova and Daniela Hantuchova will be the key women for the hosts.

In World Group II there are a couple of significant announcements.

With former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo now captaining the French team, Marion Bartoli returns from the wilderness for their home tie with Germany. She had previously been overlooked due to a row with the French Tennis Federation.

And new Spain captain Conchita Martinez - another former champion in SW19 - is without a number of top players who are in dispute with their national federation so she opts for Lourdes Dominguez Lino, Silvia Soler Espinosa, Maria Teresa Torro Flor and Nuria Llagostera Vives in their tie against the Ukraine.

All the first-round ties take place on February 9-10.

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