By Jonathan Hardison
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - It's not just Talladega week in Alabama, it's tennis time as well.
The Fed Cup pits the USA versus Russia at the BJCC this weekend.
Tournament officials say they're cautiously optimistic about fan support even if tennis star Venus Williams doesn't show.
The team held its only public practice this afternoon. Williams wasn't there. But that didn't stop some hardcore fans from watching warm-up. Local tourism officials are hoping more folks will attend this weekend to support not only the U.S. team, but the idea of pro tennis in Birmingham as well.
"Throughout the city, I'm getting positive responses from people that are involved with the event, and also the general patrons," said Jack Standifer, a local tennis coach and also a sponsor of the tournament. "Great opportunity for Birmingham to show they are a tennis town."
But the city may miss the chance to replicate the capacity crowds at last year's Davis Cup if ticket sales don't increase.
"Sales have been about half of what Davis cup was. But also, Davis Cup had the #1 player in the world in Roger Federer at the time coming to town," Standifer said.
At the U.S. team's only public practice Tuesday, only a handful of fans showed up to watch, and even the diehards admitted there was one thing that would guarantee another big crowd.
"The intrigue that Venus might be here," said a local fan. "You get a Venus, you might as well be talking a Tiger or a Federer, or a Jordan or someone like that. I really think, I don't know what ticket sales will be, but I really wish some of that would happen."
Fed Cup officials are still waiting to here whether Williams will join the team for this weekend's tournament, but organizers were quick to point out that Venus or no Venus, they're already happy with the support they're getting, especially considering NASCAR is in town this weekend as well.
"We're looking for Birmingham to come out and have strong support," said Jeff Ryan, the tournament's chief organizer. "I think you'll have this lower bowl full. We're not using the upper bowl for this event, so there's a difference right there in men's and women's, but it's still going to be a nice place for the fans to enjoy."
For tickets to this weekend's matches, click here:
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