Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who has played Grand Slams in leopard-print dresses, got married in a black gown and poses with a crocodile on her Web site, will headline America’s Fed Cup semi-final drive this weekend.
The colorful 24-year-old makes her debut in the tournament as the US, deprived of Serena and Venus Williams, take on the Czech Republic in the semi-finals in Brno.
She will be joined by world No. 1 doubles player Liezel Huber as well as fellow rookies Melanie Oudin and Alexa Glatch, with the prize being a final date with either defending champions Russia or Italy.
The US have been Fed Cup champions on a record 17 occasions, but their last triumph was back in 2000 with the Russians taking four of the next eight titles.
Mattek-Sands, the world No. 39, was originally scheduled to take part in the quarter-final win against Argentina, but was forced to pull out because of a lingering hip injury, which also kept her out of the Australian Open.
If the tennis gets drab in Brno, then Mattek-Sands could be the perfect antidote if her wedding day is any indication.
“All I knew was I didn’t want to wear a white dress. I was initially going to wear something vibrant or colorful and have a very relaxed wedding with the guys wearing linen pants and have a beach theme,” she said of her black dress option. “The owner of the store told me: ‘I’ve got this evening gown you might like it.’ So I tried it on — it was the first dress I tried on — and it was black and fit perfectly and I liked it.”
Iveta Benesova, the world No. 29, leads the Czech team, who are playing in their first semi-final since 1997. The team also includes Petra Kvitova, Lucie Safarova and doubles specialist Kveta Peschke.
The other semi-final sees favorites Russia, without the injured Maria Sharapova, facing Italy in Nova Yardinia.
Russia boast three of the world’s top 10 in their squad, with Vera Zvonareva, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova, while Anna Chakvetadze completes the line-up.
Italy were the 2006 champions and will be led by Flavia Pennetta, the world No. 14.