Rimini, Italy – French Open runner-up Sara Errani will lead off for Italy on Saturday, as the hosts take on the United States in an opening-round Fed Cup affair.
A weak U.S. team is playing without Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens this week.
The world No. 7 Errani will meet Jamie Hampton in Saturday's opener, while the second opening singles rubber will pit 16th-ranked Roberta Vinci against world No. 21 Varvara Lepchenko. Both Lepchenko and Hampton are Fed Cup rookies.
Sunday's reverse singles have Errani facing Lepchenko and Vinci taking on Hampton, while the doubles match tentatively pits an American duo of Liezel Huber and Melanie Oudin versus an Italian pairing of Nastassja Burnett and Karin Knapp, even though Errani and Vinci were the Australian Open doubles champions last month.
The U.S. is captained by fifth-year skipper Mary Joe Fernandez, while the Italians are led by Corrado Barazzutti.
The best-of-five tie will be staged indoors on red clay at Rimini's 105 Stadium.
The United States leads all nations with 17 Fed Cup titles, but hasn't captured the chalice since 2000, while Italy is seeking a third title in five years. The Americans are 9-2 all-time versus the Italians, but Italy has won their last two meetings, in the 2009 and 2010 World Group finals.
The USA-Italy winner will face the Australia-Czech Republic victor in a semifinal in April.