New York: Serena Williams will lead the United States in their Fed Cup World Group-II tie against Victoria Azarenka-led Belarus in Massachusets this weekend, with elder sister Venus scheduled to play only doubles.
In the draw made Friday, US captain Mary Joe Fernandez inserted 38th-ranked Christina McHale as her No. 2 singles player. McHale will have the daunting task of opening the best-of-five match tie against Azarenka, whose Australian Open triumph saw her rise to No. 1 in the world.
"Christina is very match-fit," Fernandez said. "She had a great Australian Open and is very prepared and ready to go. Venus has had a great week of practice as well, but I think Christina has been playing a lot more."
Azarenka said she wouldn't take McHale lightly.
"I think she’s a very good player," said Azarenka, who thrashed Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 in the Australian Open final to claim her first Grand Slam title.
"She has a lot of motivation playing in front of the home crowd. She’s had some good results, played some good matches against top players and had a few big wins, so she’s a dangerous opponent."
Venus Williams is a seven-time Grand Slam champion, but hasn't played since pulling out of the US Open, when she announced she had been diagnosed with the auto-immune disorder Sjogren Syndrome.
Serena Williams will play the second singles match on Saturday against 97th-ranked Olga Govortsova.
Serena and Azarenka will then clash in the reverse singles.
The winners of the World Group-II tie will advance to the World Group Playoff and play for a chance to reach the elite group and compete for the Fed Cup title in 2013.
The United States has been a record 17-time Fed Cup champion and is playing in the World Group-II for the first time.
Belarus is trying to get beyond the World Group-II for the first time.