U.S. Olympic tennis team stacked
WIMBLEDON, England -- The Olympic medals -- two golds and a bronze won in Barcelona and Atlanta -- are on display in Mary Joe Fernandez's home in Cleveland.
"The highlight of my career," she said Tuesday.
A month from now, she'll have an opportunity for another medals haul right here at the All England Club as U.S. Olympic tennis coach. The team, officially announced Tuesday, is loaded.
"For starters," Fernandez said, "we've got the defending women's doubles gold medalists and the No. 1-ranked team, too."
That would be a powerhouse lineup of Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond and Serena and Venus Williams. It is not difficult to imagine both teams medaling. They were joined by 20-year-old Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko, who was born in Uzbekistan but became a U.S. citizen in September.
On the men's side, with No. 12-ranked Mardy Fish opting out for personal reasons, the team will include John Isner, Andy Roddick, Ryan Harrison and Donald Young playing singles. Bob and Mike Bryan, ranked No. 2 among ATP World Tour teams, will be featured in doubles along with the pairing of Isner and Roddick.
Mixed doubles pairings will be announced formally when the tournament begins.
On Tuesday, McHale -- in her first major as a seeded player -- and Lepchenko both won their first-round matches.
For Lepchenko, it was an extremely emotional day. She defected to the United States at the age of 15 and became a resident in 2007. Her citizenship, she said, was like getting a diamond on her finger.
Tuesday, she found out she had made the team when a USTA official tweeted the lineup.
"I was scrolling through my tweets before my match, and there it was," she told ESPN.com. "I have dreamed of this for so long, I was not sure if it was reality. Is this me we are talking about -- or somebody else?
"When I came back from my match, I began to realize it was true. When I was growing up, I never thought this was possible."
The major question, after Venus' startling first-round exit here, is how taxing singles and doubles will be for her here as she battles an autoimmune condition.
"It really depends on how she wakes up in the morning," Fernandez said. "She's had some big wins in her comeback -- Sam Stosur on clay, Petra Kvitova on hard courts.
"[The loss] was tough to watch, but it comes down to how she manages her condition.
"Overall, I'm very optimistic about our chances."