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'It's a tough matchup for us': Italy faces a challenge against Williams sisters in Fed Cup

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ROME — Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti has a straightforward formula for pulling off an improbable win over a United States team led by Serena and Venus Williams in a Fed Cup World Group playoff later this month.

"We simply have to play better than them," Barazzutti told The Associated Press on Wednesday ahead of the April 18-19 outdoor match on red clay in the southern town of Brindisi.

If top-ranked Serena plays at her usual level, Italy could theoretically open the best-of-5 series behind 0-2.

"If she plays well, yes, there's a good possibility of that," Barazzutti said. "We have to play very well. It's a tough matchup for us."

Making matters more complicated is that top-ranked doubles player Roberta Vinci will miss the match with an inflamed right elbow.

Barazzutti selected Sara Errani, Flavia Pennetta, Camila Giorgi and Karin Knapp for his squad.

Vinci and doubles partner Sara Errani announced last month they were splitting on amicable terms after winning five Grand Slam titles together. But they still intended to play Fed Cup together.

PHOTO: Serena Williams hits a return to Carla Suarez Navarro, of Spain, during the women's final at Miami Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla., Saturday, April 4, 2015. Williams won 6-2, 6-0. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Serena Williams hits a return to Carla Suarez Navarro, of Spain, during the women's final at Miami Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla., Saturday, April 4, 2015. Williams won 6-2, 6-0. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

"I'm not going to worry too much about doubles for now," Barazzutti said. "We have four singles matches to play first. If we get to 2-2 then we'll think about that. But we have some of the best doubles players in the world."

The 14th-ranked Errani and 27th-ranked Pennetta are Barazzutti's top choices for singles, with No. 34 Giorgi — a rising 23-year-old — a third option.

"Errani and Pennetta are our two strongest players but we also have Giorgi, who has a lot of potential and could pull off some surprises," Barazzutti said.

Brindisi is Pennetta's hometown.

"We're hoping that will motivate her," Barazzutti said.

Italy and the U.S. have met four times in the last six years, including back-to-back finals in 2009 and 2010. The Italians won all four of those encounters but the U.S. still leads the career series 9-4.

Led by the Williams sisters, the Americans beat Argentina 4-1 in Buenos Aires in February to advance to the playoff round.

The winner in Brindisi will return to the World Group next year, while the loser will go to World Group II.


Andrew Dampf can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

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