Sloane Stephens will play singles, and Venus Williams will play doubles with Varvara Lepchenko, instead of her sister Serena Williams, in a questionable Fed Cup lineup.
The U.S. takes on Sweden tomorrow in Delray Beach, FL. Stephens will open against Sweden's top-ranked player, No. 54 Sofia Arvidsson. The two are 1-1 head-to-head.
Stephens is ranked No. 16. Venus is ranked No. 21. But Stephens is going through a serious slump. She was bounced in her openers at Indian Wells and the Sony Open.
Meanwhile, Venus is coming off a solid performance at Family Circle, where she lost in the semifinals to Serena.
This would be Stephens' first time playing singles in the Fed Cup.
The 20-year-old told the Associated Press “It’ll be my first singles match, so it’ll be a little you know, I’ll be a little nervous...But I have a great team behind me and I know they’ll be really supportive, so I’m excited.”
Fed Cup coach Mary Joe Fernandez said all of the players are hitting well and that she stuck with the rankings in creating her lineup.
Sweden coach Lars-Anders Wahlgren appeared pleased with the lineup and told AP that "It's a great start for us...Sophia and Sloane had a tough match in Brisbane a few months ago."
Stephens' ranking explains getting the nod over Venus, but why is she playing the top player from Sweden? Serena is No. 1 in the world and 8-0 in Fed Cup play. Venus is 14-2.
Why not let Serena kick things off and take the pressure off Stephens?
More puzzling is Venus playing doubles with Lepchenko as her partner.
Although the U.S. lineup, no matter how you assemble it, is better than Sweden's, why fool around?
Why send world-beater Serena to dispatch of the No. 66 player? Or trot out shaky Stephens against Sweden's top player?
Perhaps Fernandez is trying to boost Stephens' confidence. If so, then give her a pep talk. Don't risk blowing what should be a cake-walk win against a lesser opponent.
Fed Cup is about one country taking on another to establish who has the best women's tennis team in the world. Well, we have the No. 1 player in the world and the best doubles team in the world.
Either send Venus and Serena out to play singles or pair them in doubles.
Why not send Serena out first? Deliver the beat down. Send Venus out second, and secure another beat down. Then roll out Stephens and Lepchenko to steamroll over that Swedish doubles team ranked somewhere around 400.
Bam, 3-0, game over.
Follow Merlisa on Twitter: @merlisa
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!