epa03552924 Sloane Stephens of the US hits a backhand during her semi final match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 24 January 2013. EPA/Barbara Walton |
It looks like Sloane Stephens has yet to solve her abdominal injury puzzle as the promising American teen has pulled out of Fed Cup with an ab strain.
Melanie Oudin will replace Stephens on the US team for its first round tie in Rimini, Italy, February 9-10.
Stephens, who just reached the Australian Open semifinals and is currently ranked No. 17, has been troubled with abdomen injuries for a couple of years. The 19 year old, who is coached by USTA Player Development’s David Nainkin, missed the entire fall season after losing to Ana Ivanovic at the US Open. She said that during the tournament she tore an abdominal muscle that kept her off the court for seven weeks.
“I was kind of just downplaying it like it’s no big deal or whatever, but the day before I played Ivanovic, maybe the day before that, it started bleeding, the muscle started bleeding, so it was getting swollen,” she said. “ I looked like a fat girl on the court because my stomach was bulging out and it looked terrible. I just kind of was trying to forget about it, but it didn’t work because I couldn’t serve, I couldn’t do anything.”
Oudin will join fellow Fed Cup rookies Varvara Lepchenko and Jamie Hampton as well as doubles stalwart Liezel Huber on captain Mary Joe Fernandez’s team. Lepchenko and Hampton are expected to play singles against the clay court-loving duo of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.
Stephens is the third US player to pull out of the tie as Venus and Serena Williams also backed out due to injuries. Christina McHale, who is higher ranked than Oudin, doesn’t feel like she is physically strong enough yet to compete at her top level as she developed mono last summer and just got over it in the late fall.
“I’m terribly disappointed that I won’t be able to play for my country in Italy,” Stephens said. “I played a lot more matches than I expected in four straight weeks in Australia and need to be careful not to let this ab injury sideline me for a long time.”
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