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Fed Cup Tennis Reaches Semi-Final Stage

The annual Fed Cup tennis tournament has reached the semifinal stage. The U.S. women's team has reached the final four with a variety of players.

The United States advanced to the semifinals with a 5-0 victory in the best-of-five series against Italy. After sweeping the opening singles matches in Washington Saturday, Americans Chanda Rubin and Meghann Shaughnessy both won their reverse singles matches on Sunday. Alexandra Stevenson then made her Fed Cup debut as she teamed with Lisa Raymond to complete the shutout with a victory in doubles.

But the squad was missing the Williams sisters. Serena is ranked No. 1 in the world while her older sister Venus is currently ranked fourth. As U.S. assistant coach Zena Garrison explains, the absence of the Williams sisters helped to showcase other U.S. talent.

"That has been the great thing that the U.S. has had the depth [of players]. And I think overall the team really gelled together because of the fact that we had to go down the list the way we had to," she said.

Serena and Venus Williams played singles and doubles in a decisive 5-0 victory over the Czech Republic earlier this year. For the Fed Cup quarterfinals against Italy, Serena had an outside commitment while Venus continues to recover from an abdominal strain suffered at Wimbledon. Also missing were fifth ranked Lindsay Davenport, No. 7 Jennifer Capriati and Fed Cup veteran Monica Seles.

But Garrison says the players who were eventually selected had something to prove. "Everyone, once they decided to come here, they wanted to win and show people that you do not have to be at the top, but the next step was just as good," said Garrison.

U.S. captain Billie Jean King says she will use the world rankings to choose her semifinal squad, going down the list until she finds enough players who agree to fill her roster. Garrison says all of the U.S. Fed Cup players, regardless of their world ranking, are ready for the increased level of play as the tennis tournament narrows to the final.

"I think the great thing about USA is we are always competitors. We are always looking for the challenge. And I know Billie Jean [King] for sure will be looking for the challenge because you want to beat the people who are at the top," she said.

The United States heads into the semifinals in November against a powerful squad from Belgium, which eliminated defending champion Slovakia, 5-0. France and Russia will compete in the other semifinal.