- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

Chanda Rubin felt the pressure, losing the first set and failing to gain control in the second.

Then she reminded herself of something.

“Even when things are tough, [I] just remember why I am where I am, [ranked] top 10 in the world,” Rubin said. “And I remember all the victories I’ve had coming into here and use that.”

It did the trick. Eighth-ranked Rubin took control and blew away Francesca Schiavone to clinch the United States’ 5-0 victory over Italy in the Fed Cup quarterfinals yesterday at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.

Rubin’s 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 win secured the United States’ berth in the Nov. 17-18 semifinals against Belgium, which beat the Slovak Republic 5-0 this weekend.

Meghann Shaughnessy, whose match was rendered meaningless by Rubin’s victory, followed with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Rita Grande to close out singles play. Lisa Raymond and Alexandra Stevenson beat Tathiana Garbin and Antonella Serra-Zanetti 6-1, 6-2 to complete the sweep.

The victory improved the United States to 9-0 over Italy in Fed Cup play. The streak dates to 1963, when current captain Billie Jean King participated.

Entering the day with an 0-2 deficit, Italy knew it had its work cut out, but the team was given hope by the strong early play of Schiavone.

Schiavone, Italy’s highest ranked player at No.32, was not intimidated by Rubin. She quickly established her strong serve in the first set, winning all six of her service games to gain a 6-5 lead. Rubin, who won her first five service games, was broken when Schiavone used a couple powerful backhands en route to taking the set.

“This point for Italy was very important,” Schiavone said about the set, the first won by Italy over the weekend. “I watched my team, and they were really excited. Me too, huh?”

Schiavone doesn’t hide her emotions on the court, pumping her fists and screaming in excitement when she’s on a roll and falling down on the ground and yelling in frustration when she’s not.

“Schiavone is basically herself,” U.S. coach Zina Garrison said with a smile. “A lot of energy and a lot drama.”

That drama intensified in the second set with the score tied at 4-4 and Schiavone two games away from winning the match and keeping Italy’s hopes alive. Schiavone won her first 10 service games, and her serve seemed unbreakable — until that is, the crucial ninth game of the second set. Schiavone double-faulted for the first time to give Rubin a 40-30 edge, then lost the point when she ended a long rally when her shot went wide right.

It was just the break, literally, Rubin needed. She held serve to win the set and then cruised in the third set over a visibly tired and rattled opponent.

“Once I got the second set, I really felt more confident,” said Rubin, who never had faced Schiavone before yesterday. “It was important for me to really get it together after a shaky start.”

Moments after Rubin’s win, the four-member U.S. team took a victory lap around the court with the country’s flag amid booming patriotic music and a standing ovation. The moment meant a great to deal to Rubin, who was a late addition to the team after both Venus Williams and Monica Seles were forced to withdraw with injuries.

“I was late coming on the team, but I’m happy to have been able to play such a large part in the victory,” Rubin said. “It’s very crazy out there when you hear all the drums and all the people. It was really a special occasion.”

Rubin may not have the name recognition of the stars who were held out of this weekend’s event for various reasons, but she did help showcase the impressive talent pool that exists among the U.S. women.

In the first round of the Fed Cup in April, Venus and Serena Williams were a part of all five wins in the team’s 5-0 victory over the Czech Republic.

This time, it was left to the likes of Rubin and Shaughnessy. The play wasn’t as dominant, but the results were the same.

“I think the team really jelled because we had to go down the list like we had to,” Garrison said. “Once they decided to come here, they wanted to win and show people that you didn’t have to be at the top. The next step was just as good.”

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