And the U.S. Tennis Association says that if Williams does play for her country twice in 2012, it will consider the 13-time Grand Slam champion eligible for the London Olympics. The International Tennis Federation's Olympic rules require women to have made themselves available for Fed Cup in two years from 2009-12.
"I am committing to play in both of the U.S. Fed Cup team's ties in 2012," Williams said in a statement released to The Associated Press by the USTA on Wednesday. "After being physically unable to participate in the last few ties, I am eager to compete in Fed Cup and help my country return to the World Group."
The Americans host Belarus in a second-tier group match Feb. 4-5 at a site the USTA has yet to choose. The winner of those matches will advance to a playoff in April that gives that country a chance to return to the top-level World Group and compete for the 2013 Fed Cup title. The Belarus-U.S. loser, meanwhile, will need to participate in a playoff — also in April — that could knock that nation down to the third tier of the competition.
Williams was away from the tennis tour for nearly a full year, from July 2010 to June 2011, because of a series of health problems. The ITF's eligibility requirements for the Olympics say a player must be "in good standing with their national association and the ITF, and have made themselves available for selection to represent their country in Davis Cup or Fed Cup for two of the following years — 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 — provided one of those years is 2011 or 2012."
The USTA and Williams are counting on a little wiggle room, though.
In a statement Wednesday, the USTA said: "Given the extenuating circumstances that kept Serena out of competition for nearly a year with serious health issues and unable to play Fed Cup in 2011, from the USTA's perspective Serena will be in good standing and eligible for the 2012 United States Olympic tennis team if she participates in both Fed Cup ties in 2012."
The USTA's statement ended: "That being said, the ITF will make the final decision regarding Serena's Olympic eligibility."
The 29-year-old Williams is 7-0 over her career in Fed Cup matches, including 4-0 in singles. But she last participated in the event in the 2007 quarterfinals.
"Serena Williams is one of the best players in the history of our sport, and I'm thrilled that she has committed to play in both of our team's ties next year," Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. "Her presence both on the court and off will undoubtedly help our team as we attempt to return to the World Group for 2013."
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