Huber happy to play big sister to US team
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