Originally created 07/20/02

Davenport returns to action with Fed Cup

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Williams sisters chose not to play, and Jennifer Capriati was kicked off the U.S. Fed Cup team.

So if the Americans are going to beat Israel this weekend to rejoin the World Group, they will need a good performance from Lindsay Davenport, sidelined from serious competition since injuring her knee in November.

Davenport, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion and former No. 1, was drawn Friday to play Israel's top player, Anna Smashnova, in the best-of-five encounter's opening match.

Saturday's second match will have ninth-ranked Monica Seles against Israel's Tzipora Obziler. On Sunday, Davenport plays Obziler, and Seles meets Smashnova in singles, while in doubles, Meghann Shaugnessy and Lisa Raymond face Israel's Hila Rosen and Shahar Peer.

Davenport is 2-0 against Smashnova, with both matches in 1999.

Since then, though, Smashnova's ranking has risen to 16th, while Davenport has been rehabilitating from January surgery. The American's only competition since November was a handful of sets in World TeamTennis.

Just how rusty will she be?

"The injury is out of my mind already," Davenport said. "I think I've gotten over that."

U.S. captain Billie Jean King, meanwhile, insisted Friday she's perfectly happy with the team she has. Serena and Venus Williams, ranked 1-2 in the world and winners of seven of the past 12 major tournaments, told her they were not interested in playing Fed Cup.

King dismissed Capriati after a dispute over practice rules during a World Group first-round match against Austria in April. Without Capriati, the Americans lost.

"I'm a very big believer in I only want players that want to play," King said. "Nothing is worse than having a player that doesn't really want to be here. I'd rather have people who really are highly motivated that want to be there, no matter what the outcome of what happens."

King called the series against Israel "crucial."

"We know if we don't win here, for the very first time in the history of the Fed Cup, we won't be in the World Group," King said. "That is not where we want to be. We want to win."

The 26-year-old Davenport thinks she could benefit in the long run from her layoff.

"I do feel this will prolong my career," she said. "I started in '91 as an amateur playing in a number of tournaments. The rest could help me play a couple of years more than I would have. But I missed tennis a lot. I'm really refreshed."

She looks fit.

"I haven't felt in practice that I shouldn't go for a ball because of my knees," Davenport said. "I worked extremely hard this last 6-7 months. I've done my best to come back stronger and fitter than before. I'll just have to work at getting in tournament shape."

In the World Group quarterfinals, defending champion Belgium will be without its top two players - Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, - against Italy in Bologna.

Clijsters and Henin, each a Grand Slam tournament finalist in 2001, are concentrating on hard-court preparation ahead of the U.S. Open instead of facing Italy on clay.

Clijsters' younger sister, Elke, is a reserve for Belgium.

In Bratislava, Wimbledon semifinalist Amelie Mauresmo leads France against Wimbledon quarterfinalist Daniela Hantuchova and host Slovakia. Hantuchova will play Nathalie Dechy in Friday's first match, followed by Mauresmo against Janette Husarova.

The other quarterfinals are Germany vs. Spain, and Croatia vs. Austria.


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