WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Sloane Stephens will lead the U.S. Fed Cup team that is without the Williams sisters for the World Group first-round match against Italy on Feb. 9-10.
U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez also included doubles specialist Liezel Huber and rookies Varvara Lepchenko and Jamie Hampton.
Stephens is ranked a career-high No. 17 after beating Serena Williams to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open. She is in line to make her Fed Cup singles debut against the Italians.
Serena Williams, who hurt her back in the quarterfinal loss to Stephens, played in the most recent U.S. match in the Fed Cup — a 5-0 victory over Ukraine in a World Group playoff in April last year.
The match will be played on indoor red clay in Rimini, Italy. The Italian team is led by No. 7 Sara Errani and No. 16 Roberta Vinci.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.