Knapp Sacks Riske: Italy Advances in Fed Cup Over USA


By Steve Fogleman

(February 9, 2014) Karin Knapp followed up on her win over Christina McHale yesterday with a clinching 6-3, 7-5 victory today over Alison Riske in the first round of the 2014 Fed Cup season in Cleveland, Ohio. The Italians defeated the American team in all three live rubbers.

Knapp did had some trouble closing it out over Riske, who was a last-minute replacement for Madison Keys in an effort by Captain Mary Joe Fernandez to get some momentum for the US. Riske acquitted herself well. She elevated her game in the second set, and after drawing even with the Italian, she was broken at 5-5 in the next game. Knapp served it out from here.

Overall, the match was more competitive than it might appear.

“It’s not easy because she came back. I got a little bit nervous. I got a little bit of emotion.”

Knapp told the press that the team made a pact to jump in the Cleveland snow if they won the tie.

“After this, we will all put the jacket on, the scarf on and we will jump in the snow!”, she said.

No word on when and where that photo opportunity will occur, but the snowy tundra of Cleveland Public Square is conveniently located between the venue and the Fed Cup hotel.

The snow didn’t stop the crowd from arriving to cheer on the US team, but it did slow them down. There were many empty seats at the start of the tie, but the fans filled in to create a boisterous cheering section by the beginning of the second set. The Public Auditorium was noticeably louder than yesterday.



Riske had a “big group of people from Pittsburgh” to join her for the event. She called the tie “an unbelievable experience” and noted the “awesome” support from the fans.

She’ll be in training in the two weeks leading up to Indian Wells.

Madison Keys and Lauren Davis won the inconsequential doubles rubber 6-2, 6-3 over Nastassja Burnett and Alice Matteucci.

Italy will advance to the quarterfinals, while the US will be attempting to simply avoid relegation from the World Group in their next outing.

Steve Fogleman is Editor of TennisEastCoast.com, a Mid-Atlantic based tennis website. He is in Cleveland, Ohio covering the Fed Cup tie between USA and Italy for Tennis Panorama News.

Related article:

Catching Up with Alison Riske at Fed Cup in Cleveland



Italy Sweeps USA on Day 1 of Fed Cup to Take 2-0 Lead


By Steve Fogleman

(February 8, 2014) CLEVELAND – Team Italy blanked the USA on Saturday in Cleveland, Ohio, to take a 2-0 lead in Fed Cup first round action.

Christina McHale played a horrendous first set, ceding second serves to Karin Knapp. Knapp’s powerful backhand threatened to make the match a runaway for the Italian. McHale settled down in the second and broke twice to level the score at 6-4.

The ultimate result was a big bang for Italy with a victory by Karin Knapp in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. McHale ran her Fed Cup career record to 5-3 with the loss.

After the match, McHale admitted that “by giving her that lead she really relaxed and started playing much better.”

The Italian team was especially loud and supportive. Karin Knapp acknowledged that she feeds off of them and predicted that they would feed off of her win.

“We are not a lot, but we are loud. They helped me”, she said.  “They gave me confidence”.

“If I get the point, maybe Camila goes on the court a little relaxed.”

Maybe you’re right, Karin Knapp.

As predicted by Knapp, Camila Giorgi did come out relaxed…and focused.

Giorgi thrashed Madison Keys 6-2, 6-1, notching a victory for the Italian in her first Fed Cup rubber. Keys seemed to be confused and having one of those days, and she was unable to hold serve on a regular basis.

Giorgi said it did help her composure knowing that her nation was already on the board before she hit her first ball in a Fed Cup.

Keys summed it up best. “She was playing amazingly. I can only control so many things. Great job to her today”, she said.

The Americans are now in danger of losing a fourth straight tie to the Italian team dating back ten years. They’re 0-10 in ties where they’ve started with a pair of singles losses.

But US Captain Mary Joe Fernandez has every reason to believe that this team, at least on paper, should have a realistic shot at pulling a sweep of their own tomorrow. I agree.

Steve Fogleman is Editor of TennisEastCoast.com, a Mid-Atlantic based tennis website. He is in Cleveland, Ohio covering the Fed Cup tie between USA and Italy for Tennis Panorama News.


Video Bonus:
Fed Cup Cleveland: Better Than the Winter Olympics



Catching Up with Alison Riske at Fed Cup in Cleveland

.@RISKE4REWARDS: Close to Home, But Still Not Messin’ Around With Those Cleveland Browns
By Steve Fogleman

(February 7, 2014) CLEVELAND – Alison Riske grew up in Pittsburgh, a mere two hours from Cleveland, but this week marks the first time the 23-year-old has ever been to this nearly-neighboring fair city.

As a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, Riske is jovial and simultaneously serious about her love of the Steelers spoiling her desire to camp out in Cleveland.

“Never came. It is Browns territory, so I’m like ‘I’m not setting foot over there’.

I wouldn’t want to come to Cleveland for any other occasion than Fed Cup.”


The World No. 46 admitted this without hesitation when I caught up with her outside of the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott at Key Center on the eve of her maiden Fed Cup voyage as a player.

Riske was a designated hitting partner six years ago as a 17-year-old at the US Fed Cup tie in Moscow and appreciated the experience.

“I got my feet wet. I think that was the whole point of being a ‘Future Fed Cupper’.

US Fed Cup Team 2014 Cleveland

Riske joins Cleveland native Lauren Davis in the fifth and final rubber on Sunday in doubles against Alice Matteucci and Nastassja Burnett. It could be crucial.

Fed Cup Doubles: Alison Riske, Lauren Davis, Nastassja Burnett, Alice Matteucci

Though she can cross ‘Fed Cup’ off of the old Bucket List for now, she says she’ll gladly come back and play singles anytime.

FUN FACT: Riske is the only regarded WTA player who lists Washington, DC as her address. But she’ll be filling out a change of address form sometime soon.

She’ll head to Toronto to rejoin her coach, Yves Boulais, who she followed to the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland a year ago. She will train full-time in Canada. Boulais left Maryland and returned to College Park late last year. She credits him for much of her success.

“I feel like my game has transformed into something I can build on. It’s really exciting and I think the best is yet to come.”

Steve Fogleman is Editor of TennisEastCoast.com, a Mid-Atlantic based tennis website. He is in Cleveland, Ohio covering the Fed Cup tie between USA and Italy for Tennis Panorama News.

Alison Riske photo by Steve Fogleman

Alison Riske photo by Steve Fogleman

Related articles:

Draw Set for US-Italy Fed Cup in Cleveland

Draws and Results for Fed Cup for February 7, 2014


Draw Set for US-Italy Fed Cup in Cleveland


By Steve Fogleman

(February 7, 2014) CLEVELAND – The US and Italian Fed Cup Team match ups are all set in Cleveland, having been determined during an afternoon draw ceremony on Friday at a downtown hotel two blocks from the site of the tie the Public Auditorium.

The second-highest ranked American on the team, Christina McHale, will open against top Italian Team player Karin Knapp at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, followed by Madison Keys and Camila Giorgi.

On Sunday, Keys and Knapp will meet at 12:00 p.m., followed by McHale and Giorgi.

Alison Riske and Lauren Davis were enlisted for doubles, and they will square off on Sunday against Nastassja Burnett and Alice Mateucci in the fifth rubber.

At the post-draw press conference, the members of the American team expressed elation at having been chosen to participate on behalf of the US. Only one of the players—McHale—has previously represented her country in Fed Cup play and she was designated a captain for her experience.

“Whether I play or not, it’s great to be here”, said Alison Riske.

Mary Jo Fernandez spoke out in support of her designation of McHale as the leader of the team.

“It’s a different experience playing for your country. Christina has been there before. She knows what’s coming her way.”

McHale’s past participation aside, this group is Generation Next. The Americans hope to end an 0-3 slump to the Italians, after beating the Azzuri nine times in a row between 1963-2003.



Saturday, 1:00 p.m.          Singles A:         Christina McHale (USA) vs. Karin Knapp (ITA)

Singles B:         Madison Keys (USA)  vs. Camila Giorgi (ITA)

Sunday, 12:00 p.m.           Singles C:         Madison Keys (USA) vs. Karin Knapp (ITA)

Singles D:        Christina McHale (USA) vs. Camila Giorgi (ITA)

Doubles: Lauren Davis/Alison Riske (USA) vs. Nastassja Burnett/Alice Matteucci(ITA)



US Hopes Youth Will Triumph When They Face Italy in Fed Cup this Weekend

Fed Cup logo

(February 5, 2014) The USA will face Italy for the fourth time in the last six years when both teams meet again in Cleveland this weekend in Fed Cup quarterfinal play.

Neither team will have its “A” team so youth will be served, especially for Team USA. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez named the team last month – Madison Keys (18), Alison Riske (23), Christina McHale (21) and Cleveland native Lauren Davi (20).

“It’s exciting to have young members, new members on the team, said Captain Fernandez to media on Wednesday in a pre-draw news conference.  “Christina (McHale) is our experienced one, the veteran at the prime old age of what, 21?

“And I think Alison is our oldest player at 23.  So you bring a lot of excitement and energy and enthusiasm when it’s your first time.  You get this great experience to play for your country, represent your country.
So those are all pluses.  I don’t really see any negatives.  Obviously not having played under the pressure of Fed Cup before you never know how someone is going to handle it.
“I think that’s a positive regardless because of the experience and the feedback you get in it.  For me’s really it’s all positive.”

“I think this team from Italy, the challenge is that they’re big hitters,” said Fernandez. “They hit the ball hard and they’re aggressive.  Good indoors.  Probably one of their favorite surfaces.”

Team Italy who will be sporting a team of mostly first-timers are up to the challenge.

“I think will be a tough match, very talented match,” said Italy’s captain Corrado Barazzutti.  “They are young team against, so we come here to try hard to win this match and we know that will be difficult.”
“I think it’s pretty clear the future is very bright, and this is an example of it,” Fernandez said of the US squad.  “This group and the group around them has really been really making strides the last few years and working hard to break each category.
“When I started with the Fed Cup as captain five, six years ago I want to say there were only three Americans in the top 100.  I believe we’re at 11 or 12 now.  So everybody is improving and pushing each other.  We’re seeing the results.
“We have different game styles, which is great, and personalities, but it’s very positive.  It’s extremely exciting to be part of and to see the young players grow and develop as people and as players as well.

As the lone member of the Fed Cup team with any Fed Cup experience, Christina McHale offer some advice to her teammates:

“I’ve had some of my best memories and just fun weeks playing Fed Cup, so I’m really excited to be back on the team.
“I think everyone here has come to a Fed Cup before, so I think they already have some experience.
“I mean, I think just, you know, it’s such an honor to play for your country, so just giving it everything you have, which we always do.  I think that’s the best advice.”

Italy beat the US in the first round of Fed Cup last year. Overall, the US has a 9-3 record versus Italy in Fed Cup play. The US has the record for the most Fed Cup titles at 17, while last year’s winners Italy have now won the cup four out of the past eight years.






US Names Keys, Riske McHale and Davis to Fed Cup Team

Fed Cup logo

(January 29, 2014) U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez announced that up Madison Keys, Alison Riske, Christina McHale and Cleveland native Lauren Davis will represent the United States in the 2014 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas First Round tie against reigning Fed Cup champion Italy. The best-of-five match series will be played at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Feb. 8-9. Keys, Riske, and Davis will be making their Fed Cup debuts.


The winner advances to face either Spain or the Czech Republic in the semifinals, April 19-20.


Italian Captain Corrado Barazzutti announced earlier this week that Italy’s Fed Cup team will consist of world No. 45 Karin Knapp, No. 84 Camila Giorgi, Nastassja Burnett, and Alice Matteucci.


“We have a fresh group of young talent competing in this Fed Cup tie against Italy,” said Fernandez, who resides in Cleveland. “They’ve already won big matches on Grand Slam stages and are a reason why the future of American women’s tennis is so bright. Both Alison and Lauren had strong showings at the Australian Open earlier this month, Madison is the youngest player in the Top 40, and Christina has had valuable Fed Cup experience as well as solid showings in tournaments around the world. I have complete confidence in this team to step up and play great tennis in front of a patriotic crowd in Cleveland.”


Top Americans Serena Williams (back) and Sloane Stephens (wrist) will not compete due to injury.


The first-round showdown begins Saturday, Feb. 8, with two singles matches featuring each country’s No. 1 player against the other country’s No. 2 player.  Sunday’s schedule features two “reverse singles” matches, when the No. 1 players square off and the No. 2 players meet, followed by a doubles match. Play on Saturday begins at 1:00 p.m. ET and play on Sunday begins at 12:00 p.m. ET. A revised schedule for Sunday may take place if a team clinches in the third or fourth match.


Single-day tickets for $25 per day remain available at www.usta.com/fedcup or by calling 888-334-USTA (8782). Collection Auto Group of North Olmstead, Ohio, will serve as a Fed Cup Tie Sponsor. Tennis Channel will present live daily coverage.


Ohio will be hosting Fed Cup for the first time. This match will mark the fourth meeting between the U.S. and Italy in the last six years. While Italy has won the last three matchups, the U.S. leads the overall series, 9-3. The U.S. defeated Italy in its first-ever Fed Cup tie, in 1963, and last defeated the country in 2003. The U.S. is 37-4 all-time in Fed Cup ties played at home.


World No. 37 Madison Keys, 18, is making her Fed Cup debut. Keys broke into the Top 40 in the world in 2013 after reaching the third round of the Australian Open and Wimbledon. In 2011, she became the youngest player to win a main draw match at the US Open since Nicole Vaidisova in 2005. And in 2009, she became the youngest player (14 years, 48 days) since Martina Hingis in 1994 to win a WTA match. Entering the 2014 season, Keys qualified for and reached the semifinals of the Australian Open tune-up event in Sydney, and she then advanced to the second round of the Australian Open. She trains with the USTA Player Development program at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla.


Alison Riske, 23, is also making her Fed Cup debut. She is ranked a career-high No. 47 in the world after reaching the third round of the 2014 Australian Open and the quarterfinals of the WTA event in Hobart, Australia, at the beginning of the year. Riske gained national attention after advancing to the fourth round of the 2013 US Open, where she defeated former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the third round. Also in 2013, she reached the semifinals of the WTA grass-court event in Birmingham, England, and advanced to the third round at Wimbledon.


World No. 59 Christina McHale, 21, made her debut for the U.S. Fed Cup team in the 2010 quarterfinals and has a 4-3 record in Fed Cup play (all singles), winning her last four matches (all in 2012). McHale was the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic tennis team and reached the third round of three Grand Slam events that year. In 2011, she established herself as the second-highest-ranked American behind Serena Williams and became the youngest player in the WTA Top 50 after defeating then-world No. 9 Marion Bartoli en route to the third round of the US Open. She also won the bronze medal in singles and the silver in doubles at the 2011 Pan Am Games. As a junior player, she swept the singles and doubles titles at the 2009 USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships to earn wild cards into the US Open. Like Keys, McHale trains with the USTA Player Development program in Boca Raton.


World No. 60 Lauren Davis, 20, a Cleveland native, will also be making her Fed Cup debut. She reached the third round of the 2014 Australian Open for her career-best Grand Slam result. Davis competed in all four Grand Slam events in 2013 and started the year by reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open tune-up event in Hobart, losing to Stephens. After the Australian Open, Davis returned to the States and won the $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Midland, Mich. Davis broke into the Top 100 for the first time in her career in 2012, qualifying for and reaching the second round of the French Open and advancing to the quarterfinals in Quebec City, Canada. Davis also ended the 2012 season strong on the USTA Pro Circuit, winning the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Las Vegas, sponsored by music mogul Redfoo of LMFAO. Davis peaked at No. 3 in the ITF World Junior Rankings in 2010, when she won the Orange Bowl and reached the final of the Easter Bowl. She trains at the Chris Evert Academy in Boca Raton.


Fed Cup is the world’s largest annual international women’s team competition (96 countries have entered for 2014).  The U.S. and Italy are among the eight nations eligible to win the 2014 title as part of the elite Fed Cup World Group. The U.S. leads all nations with 17 Fed Cup titles, the last coming in 2000, and holds an overall 143-33 record. For more information, including access to player and historical Fed Cup records, please go to www.usta.com/fedcup or www.fedcup.com. Wilson is the official ball of the U.S. Fed Cup Team


Italy Rallies Past US to Move into Fed Cup Semis


Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci

(February 10, 2013) Italy came back from 1-2 down to defeat the United States in Fed Cup 3-2 on Sunday in the first round of the World Group in Rimini, Italy.


World No. 1 doubles team Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci sealed the win for Italy in the fifth rubber with a victory over Varvara Lepchenko and Liezel Huber 6-2, 6-2.


“Errani and Vinci are the weapon,” said Huber. They are like sisters. They are like best friends. They can almost see each other’s body language and predict something before it has happened. They have a different style than what we are used to and stick to their style. They are great singles players and don’t discount doubles. I enjoy watching them play, just not against me!”


The United States led 2-1 after Lepchenko beat world No, 7 Errani 7-5, 6-2 in the first of reverse singles on Sunday.


“In the first set, I had to get my body started,“ said Lepchenko. “I had a long match yesterday, so I was a bit up and down in the beginning. Once my body warmed up, I was playing better and better in the second set and got pumped and got going.”


Vinci rallied for Italy topping Jamie Hampton 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to send the tie into a fifth rubber.

“I had a tough match yesterday, so I had to regroup and do my best for the team,” Hampton. ”First set, I made a lot of errors and started off like yesterday. I got back together in the second set and thought I had a hold of the match, but I made a lot of errors.”



Italy will next host defending champion Czech Republic in the Fed Cup semifinals, a rematch of last year’s semifinal. The other semifinal has Slovakia at Russia.


Next the United States will play in the World Group Playoff, April 20-21, to remain in contention for the Fed Cup World Group l in 2014 and to try and stave off relegation to World Group II next year. The United States’ opponent will be drawn on Wednesday, February 13, at 10 a.m. GMT at the ITF offices in London.


The U.S., who will be seeded will play one of the four winners of the World Group II First Round (Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, or Germany). The host site for Switzerland or Sweden will be determined by a coin toss on Wednesday. The U.S. would host Spain or Germany.


Fed Cup Rookie Lepchenko Keeps Team USA’s Hopes Alive in Fed Cup



(February 9, 2013) United States Fed Cup rookie world No. No. 21 Varvara Lepchenko kept US hopes alive against Italy by defeating.  No. 16 Roberta Vinci  2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the second singles rubber on Saturday to even the first round tie at 1-1. The match, which lasted for two hours and 17 minutes marked the first time the two women had ever faced off against each other.

Italy’s Sara Errani ranked No. 7 defeated Jamie Hampton 6-2, 6-1 in the first rubber.

“Even though this was my first Fed Cup match, I wasn’t that nervous because I had the experience in the Olympics,” said Lepchenko. “I was very nervous there, so I didn’t want to let my emotions get to me here in Fed Cup. I thought of this as a first match in a tournament and I just needed to get into it. In the second set, I was in it.”


“I was really proud of the way Varvara approached the match and how disciplined she was,” said US Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez. “Even when she was down, she competed really well. In Fed Cup, things get complicated and there is always tension. It probably wasn’t easy for her playing for the first time in Fed Cup without a home crowd, but she did a great job blocking it out. She kept fighting and kept believing. Varvara has a great game and can play anyone. She can make anyone feel uncomfortable and she did that today. She played her heart out.”



“It has been amazing to be a part of a team this week,” Lepchenko added.” I have so much support from all of them. I feel like I can’t let them down. I played more for them today than for myself.”


Lepchenko led 5-1 in the third set, but the momentum shifted, and the third set was even at 5-5. Lepchenko then broke Vinci and held serve to win the final set, 7-5 on her third try serving for the match. This was Lepchenko’s best career win since beating then-world No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the second round of the WTA event in Montreal last year. This was also her best win on clay since upsetting then-world No. 12 Francesca Schiavone en route to the fourth round of the 2012 French Open.



“I am really proud of the way I handled myself today,” Lepchenko said. “I have had many people cheering against me in many tournaments throughout the year, so this time, I was happy to see my team cheering for me. They really helped me.”


The US is 1-1 against Italy going into day 2 play on Sunday. Since the Fed Cup World Group format was instituted in 1995, the U.S. is 8-4 when tied 1-1 with the opposing country. The U.S. is 8-10 when playing on the road and 4-13 when losing the first singles rubber.

Sunday’s schedule – in the first singles match of the day, Varvara Lepchenko and Sara Errani, the No. 1 players from each team, will square off in the third singles rubber followed by Jamie Hampton versus Roberta Vinci. The doubles rubber will close the tie it will feature Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber for the US against Karin Knapp and Fed Cup rookie Nastassja Burnett for Italy.


“We are still in this tie and it is fantastic,“ said Fernandez. “I told the girls that the goal was to win any three matches any which way. We have one, so we are looking for two tomorrow. Varvara will play Sara, who won today, so that will be very tough. Sara has great clay-court variety and is a strong Top 10 player. Jamie will go out there against Vinci and give it her all. I’m excited.”


Tennis Channel will provide television coverage of the second day of play beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.


US Fed Cup Team Takes on Italy This Weekend in Rimini

Fed Cup logo

(February 8, 2013) The United States will take on Italy in the Fed Cup World Group First Round this weekend. Play begins Saturday at 3:00 p.m. local time on an indoor clay court at the 105 Stadium in Rimini, Italy.

The US team goes into the tie with the pressure of being huge underdogs. “There is always pressure,” said said US Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez. “This comes with the sport and team competition, you aren’t just out there for yourself. The Italians are the favorites and they have a wonderful record, but we have been in this situation many times before. All of the players have different styles on both teams and we have to make the adjustments as they come.

“I am expecting to do well. If we win, it won’t be a surprise. We are going in with a very positive attitude and will take each match as it comes and fight our hearts out to do our best. We know the capabilities of both sides and this will bring out the best in both teams. It will be an interesting tie.”


World No. 64 Jamie Hampton, who will be making her live Fed Cup singles debut will open the tie against world No. 7 Sara Errani. Hampton and Errani have met once on the WTA Tour—in the first round of the US Open Series event in Cincinnati in 2010, where Errani won the meeting 6-4, 6-2. Hampton enters Fed Cup with an appearance in the third round of the 2013 Australian Open and a semifinal showing at the WTA event in Auckland, New Zealand, the week prior. Errani will be playing in her eleventh Fed Cup singles match (6-4 record), but just her fifth live singles rubber. She is 1-3 in live singles rubbers.


“I am excited to make my Fed Cup debut in a live singles match,” said Hampton. “Errani is a great clay court player and is having a lot of success. The match will start off level, so I’ll go out there and give it my all. It should be a good start.”


“Errani, as we all know, plays the best on clay and moves very well,“ said US Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez. “Through the years, the Americans have really developed on clay and like playing on clay. Everyone on my team has enjoyed practicing on it this week. They have had good results on it, as well. Unlike ten years ago, where everyone was very apprehensive about clay, we are looking forward to it and we like the challenge.”


The second singles rubber will see world No. 21 Varvara Lepchenko face off against world No. 16 Roberta Vinci. Like Hampton, Lepchenko will also be making her Fed Cup debut. Lepchenko reached the fourth round of the French Open last year, her career-best Grand Slam singles result, and reached the doubles semifinals at the 2013 Australian Open. Lepchenko has been living in the U.S. since 2001 after receiving political asylum. She officially changed her nationality in 2007 to play for the U.S and became an official U.S. citizen in September 2011. Vinci holds a 1-3 record in Fed Cup singles matches and has never won a live singles match (0-3 record). Vinci is also a doubles specialist and currently ranked No. 1 in doubles after winning the 2013 Australian Open doubles title with Errani, who is currently ranked No. 2 in doubles. Lepchenko and Vinci have never faced each other on the WTA Tour.

In this tie, the United States makes its return to the World Group after starting its 2012 Fed Cup campaign in World Group II for the first time ever. The match will mark the 12th matchup between the U.S. and Italy in Fed Cup competition. The two countries last met in the 2010 Fed Cup final in San Diego and also faced each other in the 2009 final in Reggio Calabria, Italy, both won by the Italians. The U.S., however, leads the overall series, 9-2. The U.S. last won against Italy in the 2003 World Group quarterfinal in Washington D.C. The winner of this tie will advance to the semifinals, held April 20-21.


This will be the fifth year as U.S. captain for Mary Joe Fernandez. Fernandez led the U.S. to consecutive Fed Cup finals appearances in her first two years as captain (2009 and 2010), where the team faced Italy both times. She was the first U.S. captain to accomplish that feat since Marty Riessen in 1986-87. Fernandez holds a 6-4 record as U.S. Fed Cup captain.

The order of play for the weekend:


Saturday, 3:00 p.m. Singles A: Jamie Hampton (USA) vs. Sara Errani (ITA)

Singles B: Varvara Lepchenko (USA) vs. Roberta Vinci (ITA)

Sunday, 1:30 p.m. Singles C: Varvara Lepchenko (USA) vs. Sara Errani (ITA)

Singles D: Jamie Hampton (USA) vs. Roberta Vinci (ITA)

Doubles: Liezel Huber/Melanie Oudin (USA) vs. Karin Knapp/ Nastassja Burnett (ITA)

Television viewers in the United States will be able to watch the tie live on Tennis Channel beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.



“On the Call” With US Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier and US Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez

(December 5, 2012) WHITE PLAINS, NY – The USTA held a media conference call on Wednesday afternoon with U. S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier and U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez. Tennis Panorama News listened in on the call.

This is the official transcript of the call from ASAPSports:

TIM CURRY:  Thanks, everyone, for joining us today with U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier and U.S. Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez.
The U.S. Davis Cup will host Brazil in the first round of the 2013 competition February 1st through 3rd, also known as Super Bowl weekend.  This year the U.S. played all three Davis Cup ties on the road, posting impressive wins over a Roger Federer‑led Swiss team and a strong French team in Monte‑Carlo before losing to Spain in the semifinals.
The U.S. Fed Cup starts its 2013 campaign on the road against Italy, February 9th and 10th, after sweeping Belarus and Ukraine to earn a place back in the World Group following a one‑year absence.
Mary Joe was also the women’s coach for the U.S. the Olympic team, which swept the gold medal in singles and doubles, and the Bryans in mixed.
We’ll take questions at this time.

Q.  Mary Joe, I believe one of the more promising young Americans, Taylor Townsend, just turned pro this week.  I was wondering what you thought of that move by her, sort of her relationship with the USTA as she turns pro and moves away from the junior ranks.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  I think it’s exciting news.  I think they just announced it a couple days ago.  I’ve been following Taylor’s junior career the last couple years and it’s been pretty impressive.
She’s going to be playing this week at the Orange Bowl to try to secure the year‑end No.1 ranking with the ITF, which will be the first time an American has done that in a long time.
She’s talented.  Lefty, lot of ability.  Likes to come forward, which is so nice to see.
As to the relationship with the USTA, I’m probably not the best person to talk about that.  But from what I know she trains with Kathy Rinaldi in Boca.  I think that’s all good.  She’s received a lot of support.
We’re all really excited for her.  I think she’s got a very bright future.

Q.  Jim, you made some comments a few weeks ago about changes you would like to see happen to Davis Cup.  First and foremost, do you think it should be every other year as a lot of people have suggested, with the way Ryder Cup is for golf?
CAPTAIN COURIER:  It’s something that I’ve spoken pretty at length about.  I’m on the record as to what my thoughts are for what change should come.
But the ITF is in control of this event.  Obviously, it’s not a USTA‑operated event; it’s not a Jim Courier‑operated event.
I’m very passionate about Davis Cup and I’d love to see it get equal to the other majors.  There are lots of different thoughts out there about how to get there.  But given that it takes up four weeks on the calendar, I’d love to see it make a little bit more sense for the players, I’d love to see it make a lot more money for the ITF so they can do their good work spreading the gospel of tennis around the world.
Right now I don’t think it does quite as much as what it could in comparison to what the four majors do.
You can look up what I said.  I don’t want to rehash the model that many of us proposed because it will take us a little bit of time to go through it.

Q.  I’m going to ask you both a generic question.  Talk about your teams, what your realistic expectations are for Davis Cup and Fed Cup next year.  Maybe you could give me a breakdown of some of the players you’re familiar with, what are realistic expectations of those players next year.  Mary Joe, maybe you can put Serena aside.  But, Jim, maybe you can talk about John, Sam, Ryan, Scott, maybe even Donald.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  Normally we go ladies first, but…
CAPTAIN COURIER:  We’re excited about 2013 as a team.  We’re proud of what 2012 ended up being for us given how challenging the draw was.  We’ve earned some home ties this year, which we’re really looking forward to, assuming we win our first one.
We have Brazil, which will be challenging.  They certainly are not walkovers and we’ll be ready to play when we get to Jacksonville the first week of February.
From our team standpoint, I think what we saw in Spain is probably the nucleus of what our team will be for the next couple of ties unless we see Mardy Fish back out there feeling good.  Obviously his tennis, when he last left off, was excellent.  Made the Round of 16 at the US Open, had played well through the summer.  If he can get his physical challenges taken care of, he’ll be a big part of what happens with our team going forward.
Isner, with Querrey, with the Bryans, I think that’s likely what we’ll be looking at early on until Mardy Fish gets back up and running.
You look down the list of our players, you have Brian Baker, who had a ‘coming out’ party this year, a little late in the age department, but certainly played some great tennis.  Ryan Harrison was a big piece of what we did this year as a team.
Then you can start looking towards some of the younger players or less experienced players, Donald Young, Jr., I’m hoping he can turn it around and get back to where he rightfully belongs talent‑wise in the top 50.
You have some other guys coming out there with Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla, Jack Sock, some others, that can be a part of what we do going forward, but they have a lot of work ahead of them and hopefully they’ll be doing that.

Q.  Isner had some great moments this year, especially playing for you.  Then he also had some tough moments.  What do you expect from him next year?  Can he be a slam contender?
CAPTAIN COURIER:  I think if John has the kind of off‑season that he should have, if he does all the right things, John is one of those players that can really upset the apple cart.  We had this conference call this time last year, and I’ll be echoing what I said, which he is the most disruptive force in men’s tennis when he is on his game.
I think he saw clearly this year that he has capabilities to beat the top players, because he did so.  I think we also saw some physical limitations, which Craig addressed with him, I addressed with him, I think his new coach will be addressing with him, as well, that can certainly be easily corrected with the proper work and diligence.
I’ve had lengthy discussions with him about his schedule.  He knows what he needs to do.  We’ll see if he’s able to actually do it.
He really is one of those few guys that you can look at and say, he could win a major.  As thick as this era is at the top, he’s one of the guys that none of the top four players wants to see in his section of the draw.

Q.  I’m sure you were encouraged how Querrey established himself this year.  But Harrison had an up‑and‑down year.  I realize he’s young.  I would think maybe 2013 would be a pretty big year for him.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  One would hope.  He made significant strides in the off‑season in 2011 in preparation for 2012 physically.  He became a much more complete athlete, which I think has set the table for him now becoming a more complete tennis player.
He had growing pains, which all young players go through.  I’m hoping, sounds like you are as well, that 2013 is going to be a breakthrough year for him.  Sometimes all it takes is one tournament to turn the direction of your career.
This year in 2012 he had some unfortunate draws in majors, had some difficult competition in early rounds, and wasn’t really able to punch through.  I think next year hopefully he’ll get a little bit of a break in some of the bigger tournaments and get some momentum.  All it takes is one tournament, from my experience, to change your belief as a tennis player.
Ryan has some work ahead of him for sure, but we know he has upside.

Q.  Mary Joe, you have a real easy tie coming up.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  Nothing like starting off with a bang with Italy (laughter).
Obviously, it is going to be challenging.  We’re also very happy that we got back in the World Group this season.  It feels like we played ages ago.  Our last tie was in April in Ukraine.  10‑0, so that was a really solid season.  All the girls played well and worked extremely hard.
As of now, we’re looking at Serena.  She’s so far said yes, she wants to go.  Venus, if healthy, wants to go.  I’m happy with the progress we’ve seen from Christina and Sloane.  Both in the top 40 now.  Sloane had a breakthrough season.  We’ve seen her ability.  She’s getting mentally tougher, playing to her strengths much more.  Lepchenko to me was such a surprise to see her get so much out of her game and how hard she works.  She’s ranked right behind Serena, ranked behind Serena at 21.  She’s a fighter.  We have a good group that can play on different surfaces, that are excited to play Fed Cup.
Hopefully we can get through Italy.  It’s not going to be easy with the depth and variety that they have on their team.  But obviously looking to be confident and hopefully get through that.
But below those girls, you still have Vania King who is in the top 100, who is always not only good in singles but very good in doubles.  I’m happy with Jamie Hampton’s progress.  I thought she had a very good season, first season she finished in the top 100.  She has a lot of ability.  She’s starting to figure out her strengths and play to them a lot better.
So excited for Melanie that she’s done well at the end of the year here.  After winning in Birmingham, got herself back in the top 100.  I’m hoping she’s going to be back in our group.  Her enthusiasm, what she brings to the table is phenomenal.
We have the young ones, Madison Keys has won a couple tournaments.  She’s only 17.  I look to her to make some strides this year.
CoCo is in the back 100.  Hopefully she’s going to have a consistent year.  Lauren Davis surprised me a bit by breaking into the top 100.  I think I can put her with Melanie.  These are two players that aren’t that tall or strong, but have great work ethic and get the most out of their game.  Mentally I think because they’re so strong, they can crack the top 50, for sure.

Q.  Serena and Venus are obviously known quantities to most of the world.  Sloane and Christina finished the year in the top 40, very young.  What do you see out of them next year?  Would you be surprised to see them reach a slam quarter or semi?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  I think to me the most important thing is how much they want it.  I’ve always seen that desire from Christina McHale, her work ethic, how hard she trains.  This year is when I saw hit from Sloane.  I think she is training the right way, mentally she is getting more focused, she’s sustaining her level for longer periods when she plays.
They’re both very different, different styles of game.  You’re always going to have a little bit more stability with Christina, how she plays.  There’s much more upside from Sloane in the way she can create power, variety, the way she moves.
I do expect them hopefully to go another step this year and make it to the quarterfinals of a major.  They’ve both had big wins, and that helps a ton.  Next goal is top 20 and we’ll go from there.

Q.  I’d like you both to break down your opponents a little bit.  Jim, when you think of Brazil, two words come into play:  talent and dangerous.  Mary Joe, the same with Italy, how good they are at singles and doubles.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  Ladies first this time (laughter).
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  Well, it’s funny.  We played Italy in two finals.  At that time it was Schiavone and Pennetta who led the charge.  They had contrasting game styles, but very effective on every surface.  They translated their game well to every surface.
The top two now are Errani and Vinci.  Errani had her breakthrough season this year getting to the finals of the French, then did so well at the US Open.  In doubles you have Vinci and Errani as the No.1 team.
Errani is more of a counter‑puncher, but she can create.  She’s looking to hit her forehand with heavy spin.  She’s very quick.  She sort of doesn’t have a huge serve but it doesn’t really matter because she’s so quick.  She plays clay court tennis but can translate it onto a hard court.  We’re going to play indoor clay court, so hopefully it won’t be too slow.
But Vinci is very different from Errani.  She likes to come in.  A little bit old school in her technique, style.  Has a great and beautiful one‑handed backhand that she slices, can chip and charge, and I think has the best volleys in the women’s game.  Great technique.
The good thing from my perspective is that they’re players that don’t blow you off the court.  You can really play against them and you’re going to have time.  But I guess the downside is how tough they are mentally, how they really, every time they get on the court, have a purpose and play the right way.
It will be challenging.  Doubles‑wise, I think they won the French and the US Open, they’ve proven how tough they are.  So there’s a lot of depth.  It’s going to be interesting and we’re going to give it our best.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  From the Brazilian standpoint, they’re led by Thomaz Bellucci, lefty, ranked 33 in the world right now.  Most of his good results have been on clay, although he did have an outlier result in Moscow at the end of the year, made the fourth round of Indian Wells.  He’s capable, but he’s a guy that likes time.  That’s something that our team historically is pretty good at taking away from players.  All of our singles players have big serves.  That’s something we’ll certainly look to do with Thomaz, is to take time away from him.
Second singles player, interesting to see who they pick.  Three guys ranked between 120 and 150 in the world, between Dutra da Silva, Alvez and Souza.  We are really not sure who we’re going to get from that standpoint.  My understanding of those guys is they’re primarily clay court players, as well, for the most part.
We’re obviously going to tailor the court to our team and use the home surface advantage as much as possible.
Definitely the doubles team Melo/Soares is a veteran team, one of the better Davis Cup doubles squads around that plays a lot through the year.  Bob and Mike have a lot of experience against them.  They’ve played them several times and lost to them I believe a couple of times as well.  There won’t be a lot of surprises I don’t expect in the doubles court.
But for the average tennis fan, you may not know much about these players, but from our standpoint obviously we respect them and we’ve played many ties against players who rise to the occasion.  Both as a player and captain, I’ve seen that happen.  So we’ll be ready for them.
This will be the first time in a while that we’ve been a favorite, probably since Chile in 2011.  But we won’t take anything for granted.  We’ll be coming in ready to play ball.

Q.  Sorry to change subjects a little bit.  I’m covering the Orange Bowl.  Both of you won this.  I’m wondering if we’ve seen the end of teen phenoms in tennis.  We don’t see teenagers winning at slams anymore.  Is this the end of the teenage era?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  I hope not.  It’s true that when Jim and I were playing, there was a lot of depth with the teenagers.  They did break through and go on to do big things on the professional level.  But it has become more physical.  It’s become a lot tougher to break through when you’re that young.
So we’re seeing on both sides, but with the women, the players are developing more as tennis players and experience is playing a big role in their results at a later age.  It’s good to see, as well.
I definitely would love to see someone young break through, but I definitely think it’s getting more difficult physically on both the men’s and women’s side to be able to do that.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  I’ll echo MJ’s comment about the physicality of the game, how that’s changed a little bit, the trajectory of the teenagers.  I will say unequivocally if we get a superstar, they’re going to break through.  We have not seen the last of teenagers winning majors in tennis.
We all mimic what we see on television.  The younger players growing up now will be mimicking what they see on television.  They’ll be moving the way we see players move, the way Clijsters moved, the way Djokovic moves on slow and hard courts.
Maybe you just need an exceptional player, maybe more exceptional than they used to be, to break through, particularly on the women’s side where you can mature as a 25‑year‑old female at the age of 18.  I see no limitation there.  It’s always been a little harder for the boys to become men physically.  They just mature physically a little bit later.

Q.  Mary Joe, at the Orange Bowl you played the 14s, the 18s.  Do you feel like Townsend turning pro should be playing ahead of her age group?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  I think it’s very individual.  For me I went through each age division.  I actually won the 16s the year before at the Orange Bowl.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  She just brags the whole time (laughter).
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  But I think if you have done everything you can in the juniors, you’ve accomplished all your goals, have been dominant, there’s no reason why not to move forward.
Again, it’s individual.  I’m a big believer in weighing the pros and the cons to everything.  Sometimes I think it’s better to wait and develop more as a player, develop more physically before making that jump into pros.
There’s a lot of temptation out there.  It’s not easy.  But I think you have to take each case individually to be able to decide whether or not it was the right decision.

Q.  Mary Joe, you mentioned that so far you expect the Williams sisters to play Fed Cup in 2013.  Can you speak a little bit more on your conversations with them, specifically about Serena.  Did you see signs of maturity in her on and off the court in 2012?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  To answer your first part, I’ve spoken to her a couple times about it.  As of now, she says she wants to play.  She’s spending a lot of time in Europe now, in Paris, where she has an apartment.  This is one of the places that she actually was rooting for that we would draw because she loves playing in Italy.  I think she sees a challenge.
I actually think, from spending the time with her at Fed Cup and the Olympics last year, she enjoyed being on a team, the camaraderie she developed between the players, being the role model, having someone like Sloane look up to her and ask her questions.  It’s not something you get.  I also understand her time is very valuable and she doesn’t have every week to be able to devote to Fed Cup.
But I think this fits into her schedule.  I think if she’s healthy, we’re going to see her there.
As regards to Venus, with her it’s a little tougher because she’s managing her condition.  It’s all going to depend on how she’s doing.  She finished strong at the end of the year winning the one tournament.  I don’t believe she’s playing anything before Australia, so I think that’s going to be the big test, to see how she is in Melbourne.

Q.  Been a while since they’ve played when there’s no Olympics coming up.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  That is very true.  We’ll see.  Keep our fingers crossed.
But I do believe that Serena mentally ‑ we’ve seen it before, we saw it again in the second half of the season ‑ was mentally and physically superior.  I’ve never seen her play as well as she did at the Olympics start to finish.  There were no down spells at all.  There was no irregularity in her game.  She was very focused and determined.
When you get that from her, you see what she can produce.  Was pretty impressive to see she even finished the season well after not playing after the Open and won the Championships.  She’s going to continue to be the one to beat.  Sets the bar really high for everybody else.  At 31, it’s almost like she’s 21 again.

Q.  Jim, what do you think the team took out of its two road wins on clay?  Is that something that can carry forward to next year?  Secondly, the Bryan brothers, any commitment to Davis Cup slowing down, both married, Bob being a father?
CAPTAIN COURIER:  No signs of anything but 100% commitment from Bob and Mike for Davis Cup.  They love it.  Honestly my personal opinion is when they start to wind down their career, the last thing they will let go of will be Davis Cup as long as they’re playing the kind of tennis they’re comfortable with.  They just love it too much.  It’s such a showcase for doubles, and they obviously step up to the plate and play well when given the opportunity.
As far as clay goes for our team, I don’t think there is a lot of fear in John Isner or Mardy Fish as far as playing clay goes.  They both like it.  Harkening back to the Andy Roddick era, that was a surface that was a little less comfortable for Andy versus the others.
But for 2012, whenever we stepped onto a clay court, even Ryan Harrison, who stepped in for Mardy last minute in Monte‑Carlo, grew up a bunch playing on clay down at Bollettieri’s.  If you can slide on the stuff, you can play on it, as long as you don’t think you can’t.  I thought we competed well on that surface and I don’t think it’s an obstacle for us at all.

Q.  You have both seen a lot of parents in your travels as coaches, players.  You had tennis parents.  You will be tennis parents.  Describe to me the ideal tennis parent and the nightmare tennis parent.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  From experience now, I have become a tennis parent.  Both my kids are playing USTA tournaments.
I get a little bit nervous.  I didn’t think I would, but I get nervous watching and not happy when kids try to bully my kids, or parents get involved.
I don’t remember it being quite as intense as it is now.  It’s very not only competitive, but it just seems like it’s gone up so many notches in the intensity, how parents want to live through their kids.  It’s the end all, be all.
My daughter is 10, my son is 8.  You should see, some of these parents think it’s the finals of Wimbledon every time they go out there.
I think the ideal tennis parent is someone who makes sure their children are enjoying the sport, gives them room and space, obviously support and guidance, but aren’t on top of them 24/7.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  Can I ask a question about your question?

Q.  Absolutely.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  When you’re asking what is an ideal tennis parent, what kind of a result are you trying to achieve?  Are you trying to get a well‑rounded human being or a tennis champion?

Q.  That’s a very good question.  I would say both, but somebody who doesn’t quit the sport, too.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  I think it’s hard to get both.  I think you’ll see just from the history of our sport in this country, which we can speak to, because MJ and I lived it, there are a lot of extreme parents out there that have created some extremely good tennis players.  This is a hard sport to try to balance everything with.
There are exceptions.  I think Mary Joe and I ‑ I’m very biased when I say this ‑ we turned out to be pretty well‑rounded people who have reasonable perspectives.  That’s not always easy given the complexities of raising a child in a sport that’s not a team sport, where everything falls on their shoulders.
If you want to raise a champion, I think history shows you need extreme commitment from the parents.  They’re not the parents who just watch, they’re the parents who watch and are on the court every day.  They are the Yuri Sharapovs, Mike Agassis, Richard Williamses of the world who drive and drive and drive.
I’m not saying they’re not well‑rounded people, they all seem to be well‑rounded now, but maybe in the heat of fire maybe they weren’t earlier in their career.  That question is an onion:  you can peel off a lot of different layers and get a lot of different looks at a right answer.

Q.  If you are looking at kids who are maybe USTA ranked 30 in their section, is it different for them?
CAPTAIN COURIER:  I think it should be.  You’re not going to make a living playing tennis if you’re 30 in your section.  At that stage it’s something more about developing character, learning about yourself, creating skill sets and traits that will translate into success in other areas of your life.  That’s the way I would look at it if I were parenting.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  You’re 100% right.  I look at it from that angle.  Just sports in general, how great it is for children to learn characteristics that they’re going to need later in life.
But I think so many parents just have this false sense of what their child, the road they’re taking, what they can be.  You have to start off with the well‑roundedness as the principal goal.  If you see your child is excelling, then that’s the time where I agree with Jim, you do need someone committed.
I always tell everybody, if my dad didn’t take me to practice every day or on the weekends, sign me up for tournaments, I would have stayed home and watched cartoons.  You do need that commitment and support from a parent.  But to me being well‑rounded is a lot more important.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  The last thing I would add to that from my perspective, too, is there’s no blanket you can throw over this and say that this is the way.  You’re looking for a silver bullet that doesn’t exist.  Every kid would need something different from their personality.  I wish it was easy.
There’s a lot of people working for the USTA and other tennis academies out there that are trying to push kids into being champions.  There’s no blueprint that you can follow.  It has to be done with flexibility based on a personality.
MJ wanted to stay home and watch cartoons.  I was begging my parents to take me.  There’s two different ways to get to the same place.

Q.  Mary Joe, if your kids turned out to be 30 in their section or 50 in their section, would that be okay with you?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  That would be phenomenal.  Every time I see them play, they played a tournament over Thanksgiving together, I’m so happy.  I just can’t believe they actually play, hit the ball over the net, play points, tell score, the whole thing.
That to me is success right there.  It is a game of a lifetime, as we’ve heard many times.  My goal is for them to know the skill so they can do whatever they want with it, whether they play at school or socially, or who knows, maybe their boyfriend or girlfriend will be a tennis player and that is going to be a big key in their relationship.
Whatever it may be, tennis fulfills a lot.  It’s been my passion my whole life.  It continues to be.  I’m just ecstatic they both like it.

Q.  Mary Joe, can you talk about how exciting it is this will be the 50th anniversary of Fed Cup.  I know you always talk about some of the best memories you have in tennis were playing Fed Cup.  To see the kind of support it gets now, Fed Cup finals sold out in minutes, just how far you’ve seen it come.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  It’s phenomenal that it is the 50th anniversary.  I think they’re trying to organize a few festivities to celebrate.  I played many years, had great mentors as coaches, starting with Marty Riessen, Billie Jean King, I had Martina Navratilova for a year.  There’s just a lot of history that has been passed down, a desire to not just play for yourself but represent your team and country, that was big.  It continues to be so for me.
It’s great.  I love that I’m part of it still and continue to be able to help and give back as much as possible.

Q.  Jim, you touched on this earlier.  But speaking of the first home tie for you guys in a while, it will also be the first‑ever home tie for John and Sam, the first time they’ll play Davis Cup on something other than clay.  Can you talk about that and how that plays to your team’s strengths.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  First, I’ve not announced the team.  I want to be clear to everyone that the team probably won’t be announced until sometime during the Australian Open when we’re required to announce it.  Hopefully everyone will be healthy and we’ll have all options on the table.
Let’s take a leap and say if John and Sam are playing, I can tell you they’ll be extremely excited.  These guys have been on the road for all their ties, as you’ve mentioned, to have a chance to play at home in a comfortable environment, particularly for John, seeing as he’s from the South, seeing as he played college tennis not too far from Jacksonville in Athens, I think he would be especially excited to be in that environment and feel the energy of a crowd behind us as opposed to pushing against us.
So it will be interesting to see whenever that does take place, interesting to see how they react to it, because we won’t know until it happens.
Those are special moments for players, no question about it.

Q.  Jim, this is the first time that Jacksonville has hosted a major men’s event.  Obviously it’s hosted other tournaments for many years.  How important is it for a crowd to be into the match and be supportive of these players?  Are you expecting that Jacksonville will have that type of crowd that will be behind these guys?
CAPTAIN COURIER:  Yes, it is important that the crowd is behind it.  One of the beautiful pieces of Davis Cup tennis is the partisan crowd aspect, the atmosphere that’s more like a college football game, which I know Jacksonville area fans are well attuned to, given they have the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party every fall with Florida/Georgia football.  It’s that kind of ambience that you’re pulling for the United States team that we anticipate and we certainly desire as a team.
I think certainly there will be plenty of people in the Jacksonville area that will be present and participating.  I think we’ll also draw from the region, as Davis Cup typically does, the tennis and sports fan that want to be part of something that’s international in scope and has a different flavor to a normal tennis event.
If you’ve never been to Davis Cup, this is like nothing you’ve ever seen as a tennis fan.  I think people are always partisan once they get in there and see that it’s okay to scream and shout.

Q.  Jim, obviously you still have the fire burning inside you.  How do you impart that to your players?  Do you need to impart that to your players still?  Same thing for you, Mary Joe.
CAPTAIN COURIER:  Kind of along the lines of what we were talking about as far as parenting goes, different players require different things from a coaching standpoint.  I think we also have to keep in mind that all these players have their day‑to‑day coaches and teams, and Mary Joe and I are very supplementary to that.
Speaking for myself, working with the Bryan brothers, there’s not a whole lot I need to bring to the table.  They’re super energetic, professional and polished.  They’re very systematic.  They know what they’re doing.  There’s no question marks for me to get in there and say, Hey, you guys want to change this routine.  Far be it for me to tell them how to do their job.  They’re the best at what they do.
For players like John, Sam and Ryan that are still evolving as tennis players, there’s a little more interaction and it can vary based on how they absorb information.
Working with Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick, who were more experienced, a little bit more in the Bryan brothers camp, they know exactly what they need, they know where they need to go to get where they’re going, there’s less information that’s required.
I think it’s a learning curve for everyone as far as how to impart information and when to leave well enough alone from my standpoint.
I can’t speak to MJ, but I would imagine her experience has been a little similar to mine.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  Totally.  That’s the hardest thing in the year or two, is to really learn the personalities, who needs to be told what, when and how much.  How much do you push, how much do you not push.  It’s a balance.  After a time, you sort of learn what triggers the right response from the players.
For me, it’s really trying to get the most quality when you’re there.  We’re there a limited time.  We’re not their main coaches, like Jim said.  We try to give them the best advice and get the most out of them.
Every time they get on the court, they have to have a purpose, they have to have a plan of what they’re trying to achieve when they’re out there.  It’s more quality than quantity.  Some of my players want to practice 10 hours a day.  I have to pull them back and say no so they’re fresh.  Others want to practice less, so you have to push them to practice more.
It’s a learning curve.  But the more time you spend with different personalities, the more you’re aware of what you need to say and not say.
TIM CURRY:  I want to thank everyone for joining us, and thank Jim and Mary Joe for their time.  Hope everybody has a good day.  Thank you.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ:  Thanks, everyone.