Williams cast in lead role after Davenport exit

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The Independent Online

The Wimbledon champion, Venus Williams, will now lead the American team. "It's a little bit unfortunate," the team captain, Zina Garrison, said. "Lindsay was playing against Venus in the [Wimbledon] final and she came over with an injury. There's something wrong with her back."

"Now it will be a bit easier for us," Russia's No 1, Elena Dementieva, said. "The winner and the runner-up in one team - it was too much."

The 29-year-old Mashona Washington, who is making her Fed Cup debut, will be the US team's No 2 singles player.

"She [Davenport] has been very supportive of the Fed Cup and she's apologised to the whole team as well as to her country for not playing," Garrison said. "It's just a really unfortunate situation because she's been such a leader for each and everyone in this team and she really wanted to come here."

Jill Craybas was called up to play doubles with Corina Morariu.

Williams defeated Davenport in the Wimbledon final last Saturday for her fifth Grand Slam singles title - and first in four years but is still primed for the premier women's team event.

"I think the most important part is I knew I was going to play a few months before, and mentally I'm already ready to be here this week," Williams said. "I play in the Fed Cup as much as I can. I love to be in the team environment because it's just something you don't have in tennis."

The United States has beaten Russia in all four previous meetings, the last time being when the two nations met in the 1999 Fed Cup final on a hard court in Stanford, California.

Russia beat France in Moscow last season for its first Fed Cup title while the United States has won the competition 16 times.

The draw for the tie will be held on Friday. Singles matches are set for Saturday, followed by the reverse singles and the doubles match on Sunday. The winner of the tie will face either France or Spain in the final on 17 September.

In Newport, Rhode Island, the top-seeded Taylor Dent powered his way into the second round of the Hall of Fame Championships with a 7-6, 6-4 victory over Amer Delic on Tuesday. Dent, the 2002 Newport champion, improved his career record to 6-1 at the event by taking charge in the first-set tie-break and relying on his powerful serve throughout.

"It was kind of weird," Dent said. "It was kind of a struggle. Today I was extremely hot and cold. I came up big in the breaker." Dent led 5-0 in the tie-break before taking the first set.

A No 1 seed has never won the 29-year-old tournament. "If I check out early in Newport then it's the norm," Dent said, jokingly. "I'm certainly under no pressure."

The local favourite James Blake, who was seeded No 8, was surprisingly defeated by Anthony Dupuis of France, 6-2, 6-4. The No 4 seed, Cyril Saulnier, lost to Daniele Bracciali, 7-5, 6-3 and the seventh-seeded Paul Goldstein defeated Dick Norman, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.

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