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Stephens to lead US against Italy
08:29 AEST Thu Jan 31 2013

Australian Open semi-finalist Sloane Stephens will lead an inexperienced United States squad against Italy in next week's first-round Fed Cup tie, US captain Mary Joe Fernandez has announced.

Stephens shocked Serena Williams in the quarter-finals in Melbourne and at 10 months and three days beyond her 19th birthday became the youngest American to go so deep in a Grand Slam event since Williams in 2000 at Wimbledon.

Stephens, ranked a career-best 17th in the world, made her Fed Cup debut in doubles last year in a World Group playoff against Ukraine and is expected to make her singles debut in the February 9-10 tie on red clay at Rimini, Italy.

Also named to the US squad were first-time Fed Cup players Varvara Lepchenko and Jamie Hampton, 23, as well as Liezel Huber, ranked eighth in doubles.

Uzbek-born Lepchenko, 26, became a US citizen last September while South African-born Huber, 36, became a US citizen in 2007.

"I am excited to welcome some new, young players to the US Fed Cup team," Fernandez said.

"Italy is a championship team and always plays well in Fed Cup competition, but I have confidence in the players on this team and know that they will all be ready to compete hard."

Italy defeated the Americans in the 2009 and 2010 Fed Cup finals after losing their first nine Fed Cup meetings.

The Italian squad features World No.7 Sara Errani and World No.16 Roberta Vinci, who combined to win the women's doubles title at the Australian Open, plus Karin Knapp and Nastassja Burnett.

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