Hu­ber happy to play big sis­ter to US team

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

LON­DON: Since arriving with her suit­case from South Africa, Liezel Hu­ber has lived the Amer­i­can dream.

A nice house in Hous­ton, a hus­band, dogs, cats, a ten­nis ranch, even the oblig­a­tory mo­torhome sit­ting on the drive.

Now the 33-year-old women’s dou­bles world num­ber one aims to re­pay her adopted coun­try by help­ing the US win the Fed Cup for the first time since 2000 against a for­mi­da­ble Italy team in Cal­abria this week­end.

Dur­ban-born Hu­ber, who mar­ried Amer­i­can hus­band Tony in 2000, be­came a US ci­ti­zen in 2007 and played un­der the coun­try’s flag at the Bei­jing Olympics, will be ap­pear­ing in the Fed Cup for the US for only the fourth time but has quickly be­come team leader and role model.

“The US Fed­er­a­tion has wel­comed me with open arms and I think my role as the old­est and most ex­pe­ri­enced player on the team gives me two jobs,” Hu­ber told Reuters at last week’s WTA Cham­pi­onships in Doha where she and part­ner Cara Black were con­firmed as year-end num­ber one pair for the third con­sec­u­tive year.

“It’s not just about be­ing the best dou­bles player out there and the leader on the court but it’s also like be­ing the mum and big sis­ter if they’re hav­ing a bad day or a bad mo­ment.”

Hu­ber won the de­cid­ing fifth rub­ber in the quar­ter-fi­nals and semi-fi­nals against Ar­gentina and the Czechs this year with Julie Ditty and Bethanie Mat­tekSands re­spec­tively.

She would love to be in­volved in an­other cliffhanger.

“I’m so ex­cited and so ner­vous,” she said. “This will be dif­fer­ent, I have never been in the Fed Cup fi­nal and I think this will be big­ger than any­thing I’ve been part of.

“It’s funny, I’m not a great team per­son but I re­ally think I’m so lucky to have this op­por­tu­nity to be part of this or­gan­i­sa­tion and this fi­nal. I will be very ner­vous and I hope I have a live match to play.”

Sadly for Hu­ber she will not get the chance to play with Ser­ena Wil­liams, af­ter the world num­ber one with­drew.

With Venus Wil­liams also miss­ing, Hu­ber ad­mits it is very much a B-team even with US Open quar­ter-fi­nal­ist Me­lanie Oudin in action.

“We have been called the B team and we might still be the B team now that Ser­ena is not play­ing,” Hu­ber said.

“I don’t put my­self on the same level as (the Wil­liams’) but the B team can still do it, we’ve done it without them so far.

“I hope Ser­ena plays Fed Cup next year though be­cause I would love to play dou­bles with her and ex­pe­ri­ence that power on the same side of the net.”

Hu­ber, who has earned $4 mil­lion and has won 39 dou­bles ti­tles, in­clud­ing four Grand Slams, is pas­sion­ate about her sport and her adopted coun­try.

She set up a foun­da­tion called Liezel’s Cause for vic­tims of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, built a ten­nis academy, and is try­ing to get a cy­cle path built in her Hous­ton neigh­bour­hood to help lo­cal chil­dren get more ex­er­cise.

“I chose Amer­ica and that makes it spe­cial,” said Hu­ber, who said she would like a role in the USTA when she re­tires. “I wasn’t born there, I don’t take any­thing for granted.

“I came when I was 15 with a suit­case and now I have a house, a ten­nis cen­tre, a hus­band, dogs, cats... so much to be grate­ful for. I def­i­nitely came to Amer­ica with a dream and I want to give some­thing back.”

Hu­ber has scaled the heights, yet read­ily ad­mits hang­ing on to the world num­ber one spot would be tough if the Wil­liams sis­ters played more dou­bles.

With Black, she was beaten by the Wil­liams pair in the Wim­ble­don semis and the US Open fi­nal.

“I take great pride in be­ing the num­ber one,” she said. “We haven’t had such a great year, we lost to Venus and Ser­ena pretty con­vinc­ingly.

“They are great dou­bles play­ers and will raise the level so bring it on!” – Reuters

AMER­I­CAN WOMAN: Liezel Hu­ber in action at last week’s Sony Eric­s­son Cham­pi­onships

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