For the second straight year, Italy defeated the United States, 3-1, in the Fed Cup women's team tennis final. The best-of-five series was played in San Diego, California, and it was the first time the U.S. women have lost a Fed Cup final played on home soil.
You could argue that Italy is no stronger as a nation in women's tennis than the USA or Belgium, but where the Italians are different is that they get all their big names to play for their country.
So while Serena and Venus Williams have not played for the USA in more than three years, Italy has been able to parade its top players in a settled team for the past five years, so it is little wonder the southern European nation is today celebrating its third Fed Cup title in five years.
It took a little longer to finish than many had expected at the start Sunday. Melanie Oudin finally rediscovered the form that took her to the U.S. Open quarterfinals 15 months ago in beating Francesca Schiavone, 6-3, 6-1, the French Open champion looking tired in her last match of a long, but glorious year. So it was left to Flavia Pennetta to seal the trophy for Italy, beating the 18-year-old CoCo Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-2.
"It is amazing to win a match like this," said Flavia Pennetta. "I was feeing really good on the court. I was really focused on my game."
It is Italy's year, indeed Italy's era, but the fact that the United States fielded two teenagers on the final day looks good for the future, even if at least one Williams sister would certainly help the cause.