Fed Cup: Seles loses to Farina

ANCONA, Italy — Venus Williams made a winning debut in Fed Cup. Monica Seles faltered.

As a result, the heavily favored United States team tied with Italy going into Sunday’s reverse singles and doubles play.

Venus Williams pounded out a 6-2, 6-3 victory Rita Grande in just over an hour Saturday.

But Seles fell to Silvia Farina, Italy’s top player, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Blisters on her left — serving — hand raised questions about whether Seles will play the reverse singles.

“I’ve never had six blisters on my hand before,” said Seles. “I have to see if it’s hurting when I hit.”

Coach Billie Jean King will hold a team meeting before the decision is made Sunday, but Seles could be replaced by Serena Williams or Mary Jo Fernandez.

The Americans have won the Fed Cup, the women’s version of the Davis Cup, 15 times, hold a 7-0 record against Italy and were viewed as such dominating players that the Italian media dubbed them the Dream Team.

“We have nothing to lose,” Farina said after turning in the upset. She raced out to a 4-0 lead against Seles and kept the American, ranked No. 5 in the world, off balance with drop shots and backhands hit deep to the line all afternoon.

Even when Seles won the second set it was a struggle. She squandered three set points on her serve.

Venus Williams had an easy time winning her Fed Cup debut.(AP) “Farina played better, she deserved to win,” said Seles.

Venus Williams, who joined the team for the first time, controlled her match from the start.

“It was my first Fed Cup match, I was pretty excited,” she said.

The No. 4-ranked player said neither the slow red clay courts nor the mainly defensive play of her opponent bothered her.

“I play on anything, I was happy out there,” Williams said.

IN THE FIRST SET, she took a 5-1 lead, winning three of the games at love.

When Grande’s game picked up slightly in the second set, helped by some errors at net by Williams, the crowd began to get behind her. But the Italian, ranked No. 60, then faded.

King said several other players have had problems with blisters during the week, possibly due to the red clay.

Serena Williams has already been picked to play doubles with her sister.