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Florida's Rolle Part of New-Look U.S. Fed Cup Team

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The U.S. Fed Cup team was swept 3-0 in live play in the semifinals this past April, but the USTA is hoping the loss, and a new-look line-up, will kick-start a new generation of U.S. women players.

When the Williams sisters took a pass on the tie and Lindsay Davenport was still recovering from an illness, captain Zina Garrison and coach-and-future-captain Mary Joe Fernandez decided to go with the rookie singles squad of Vania King and Florida's Ahsha Rolle, both ranked outside the Top 100. The deep Russian squad, led by former US Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova (Maria Sharapova was not called to duty), moved fairly easily into the final, but not before some bright spots for the U.S.

King, with a 1-2 career win-loss record in Fed Cup for the U.S. entering the tie, stretched Anna Chakvetadze in 6-4, 7-5 loss, then gave Vera Zvonareva a scare before succumbing 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Rolle lost 6-2, 6-1 to Kuznetsova in her Davis Cup debut, but then in the "dead rubber" fourth singles match defeated Elena Vesnina in straight sets.

Rolle, a 23-year-old Miami Shores resident, employs an exciting all-court game, which can take longer to mature than the typical baseline basher.

"I think it's 'cause I have so many things in my game, like I have a one-handed backhand, I can slice, I can come to the net," Rolle says. "There's so many things that I have that I can do on each ball, whereas the girls that are young are pretty much just big hitters, they know what they want to do with each ball. I think it's taken me longer to develop my different shots and just how I want to play each point."

Rolle also has a Howitzer of a serve which benefits her on any surface, as it did during her win on the red clay in Russia.

"Ahsha served unbelievably well and I think it was amazing that she was able to keep her serve on that level for the whole match," Garrison said. "That kind of serving is a high level for anyone and is Grand Slam material."

Last year Rolle compiled her best season since turning pro in 2004. She qualified into the main draw at the Australian Open, and beat countrywoman Meghann Shaughnessy en route to the third round at Indian Wells. She then caught fire toward the end of the year with a runner-up effort at the Bronx Challenger, and defeated Tatiana Golovin en route to the third round at the US Open.

At the end of 2007 she was working toward putting an ankle injury and also some anger issues on court behind her.

"I was working with a sports psychologist for a while because I was just getting angry, then I'd lose," Rolle said at last year's US Open. "So it wasn't good. But I think I'm starting to control my emotions a little bit better. But I'm an emotional person, especially on the court. I'm competitive. So when I lose a point, then you're probably going to know I lost a point. But I'm trying to hold it together a little bit better."

She has held it together thus far in 2008, approaching the Top 100 once again (after reaching a career-high No. 82 last year), and substantiating the hundreds of thousands of dollars her parents have put behind her and her younger sister, Tiya, even tapping into their retirement fund.

For now it looks like the USTA has committed to Rolle, King, and the next generation of U.S. players for Fed Cup. It's a formula that was successful when the USTA first employed it in 2001, when new Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe took a chance with rookies Andy Roddick and James Blake. Six years later the same crew, along with the Bryan brothers, brought home the Davis Cup and have been readily on-call for the international competition ever since � a fact not lost on Garrison and Fernandez, who could not get either Venus or Serena Williams to play in 2008.

"Mary Joe Fernandez and I talked about it and we decided to take this direction since she is coming in next year as Fed Cup captain," Garrison said. "I wanted to make sure that Mary Joe had input, as they are players she will be working with next year."

This article appears in the June issue of Play Tennis Florida magazine, Official Magazine of USTA Florida, www.PlayTennisFlorida.com

Posted by Shelia

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