There has long been concern over the health of the Davis and Fed Cups, which have often failed to earn the commitment of top players as they are staged several times throughout a crowded season.

At the same time the ITF has been deaf to pleas for reform. It wasn’t always that way in Fed Cup, as at one time the competition was held in just one week at one venue. That meant a large site had to be found, of course, but it was never a problem and everyone showed up to play.

But in a desire to increase TV revenue which is used to grow the game worldwide, and to enable more people to watch and to grow awareness of the competition around the world, many years ago the format was changed. Several different ideas were tried before the present system was settled upon, but it is not without its problems.

This weekend a number of the top names will be missing as they are unwilling to sacrifice tournaments used as preparation for Roland Garros. Francesca Schiavone, a key member of the Italian team that has enjoyed most success in recent years, is missing for the World Group tie in Russia.

Unfortunately, through an apparent injury, is Italy’s number two, Flavia Pennetta.

A couple - Maria Sharapova and Gisela Dulko - have elected to chase exhibition dollars instead of representing their country.

Another who will be missing is Samantha Stosur, who along with Jelena Dokic has decided it is better for her to move on from the green clay of Charleston to the red clay of Europe without making a lengthy and exhausting detour to Melbourne - even though the tie against Ukraine will also be played on specially-laid red clay.

Australia’s Fed Cup captain - and Stosur’s coach - has revealed that a request was made to the ITF to play the tie in Spain or elsewhere in Europe, which would have been far more convenient for all concerned, but the request was refused. The result of that intransigence is that the competition has lost two marquee players, and Taylor supports and understands Stosur’s reluctance to play - especially as she faces the defense of her runner-up finish at Roland Garros during a so-far less than spectacular season.

"I think it'd be really silly for anyone to be critical of Sam not playing," he said. "Every other top player misses ties, and now we have other top girls it's a different situation. Before, it wasn't. Sam had never missed a tie in nine years other than when she had Lyme Disease, and she's about to become Australia's most winningest player ever in Fed Cup so there'll be no criticism from me of her decision
10/4/2013

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