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UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 8, 2016
New York, New York
BRENDAN McINTYRE: Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining us today. We're here obviously to announce the new U.S. Fed Cup captain. On the line today we have the USTA chairman of the board, CEO and president, Katrina Adams; the USTA chief executive of tennis, Stacey Allaster; and shortly to come our new U.S. Fed Cup captain.
To make this special announcement, I will turn it over to Katrina Adams at this time.
KATRINA ADAMS: Good afternoon, everyone. It gives me great pleasure to announce Katherine Rinaldi as our new U.S. Fed Cup captain. We are extremely excited to have someone like Kathy with her great coaching skills, her leadership capabilities and mentorship capacity that she can bring to our players of today and of tomorrow, and even more so we're happy to have her as our captain that will bring the Fed Cup back to the U.S. soil.
BRENDAN McINTYRE: Now to give a little more insight into the decision-making process, how this all played out, why we went in this direction, our chief executive of professional tennis, Stacey Allaster.
STACEY ALLASTER: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me also congratulate Kathy before I begin.
I've been with the USTA now for approximately nine months. One of the first things I did when I joined was I met with Martin Blackman, general manager of player development. I asked Martin how could Pro Tennis support him better. One of the top things on Martin's list was to have more integration of Fed Cup and Davis Cup with player development on a year-round basis.
As Martin and I continued those conversations about what that really meant, and we looked at the captains' roles, we really saw the importance that this position needed to be more year-round, to really work hand-in-hand with Team USA, with all of our coaches, and most importantly to be working with our athletes on a more regular basis, versus the model that we previously had, which was the week before the tie and the week of.
We had a process. Sometimes the chairman, president and CEO can elect to appoint the captain. But Katrina was great. She knew we had a lot of great Americans who were interested in the role. I recommended to Katrina that we should have a process.
We had a selection committee made up of Chanda Rubin, Martin, Venus Williams, and myself. We went through that process. Kathy, at the end of the day, was unanimously selected by the committee.
We involved the players. We got all of their feedback, that was critically important, and we made that recommendation. Here we are today to have a great American champion to now be our Fed Cup captain to bring the Cup home.
BRENDAN McINTYRE: At this time it's my pleasure to turn it over to the new U.S. Fed Cup captain, Kathy Rinaldi.
KATHY RINALDI: Thank you, Brendan, Stacey and Katrina.
I am incredibly honored and excited to have this opportunity. I'm truly looking forward to working with all the players throughout the year. I want to thank Katrina, Stacey and everyone at the USTA for their confidence in me as Fed Cup captain and for supporting me in this role.
BRENDAN McINTYRE: Now at this time we'll open it up to the Q&A portion of the conference call.
Q. Given that you've been intrinsically involved with American tennis and the USTA for many years, how do you see this role differentiating between what you've already done? How are you marrying all of your roles within the USTA?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I think the increased role of the Fed Cup captain can only help the success of the Fed Cup team. I think with the role that I'm doing, I am with the players all year round. I think the relationships that you form are strong.
Mary Joe did an incredible job in her time as captain. I have tremendous respect for her as a person and as a player and a captain. I hope that I can build upon her success.
Q. Is there anybody that you see as kind of a young player, maybe CiCi Bellis, but somebody you are looking to saying that, You are the future of the Fed Cup for the United States?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I think there's many. It's so exciting. I've been at the USTA for eight, nine years now. To see some of these girls that I've known since they were 12 years old and younger, now a CiCi Bellis, who is ranked 75 in the world, to watch Madison Keys, top 10 in the world, and the list goes on. It's just such an exciting time for American tennis.
I have to give a shout out to all my colleagues at the USTA, all the private coaches, the relationships that have been formed in the last eight or nine years, watching everyone work together, seeing the success in the women's game, and the men's game as well, has been so exciting and very rewarding.
Q. I'm sure Katrina didn't want to put any pressure on you, but she mentioned you bringing the Cup back to U.S. soil. Talk a little bit about what you like about that team competition concept. You really motivate your team at the junior Fed Cup and really enjoy it.
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I do.
As a player, we realize that tennis is an individual sport. I was fortunate enough to play the Wightman Cup for many years. Those are some of my best memories, being with a team, letting your guard down, getting to know each other and bonding for one common goal, and that's to win, to win the Fed Cup.
Junior Fed Cup was just an extremely rewarding experience for me with the players, working with them, not only to win but to be better and to be better tennis players by the end of the week and better human beings, teaching them how to become a team member. Everybody is a superstar on the team.
By the end of the week, it's just so rewarding, win or lose. Fortunately we won a lot. But it was extremely rewarding to become so close and to share those memories.
Many of the girls today, we talk about it a lot. We've had so many fun times. So we're creating wonderful memories.
Q. Primarily you've been involved more with the juniors. Will that continue or will you transition in a way more to the pros? I assume you'll be moving up to the Orlando area?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Well, in fact, I've been running the Team USA Pro Division for the past year. We started that team initiative, Team USA initiative, at the end of last year starting with the pre-season. I have been working a lot with the pros.
I will continue to work with the juniors as well as they transition. I always enjoy working with every level of player. So I will continue to work with them, as well.
Yes, I will be moving to Orlando, our amazing home of American tennis.
Q. If I recall correctly, you've worked with a wide number of players Kournikova, Taylor, so forth. What do you think the one quality you have that you'd say is your greatest attribute in terms of the Fed Cup coaching position?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Well, I really don't like to toot my own horn. But I'm so passionate about what I'm doing. I get so emotional. I'm going to try not to get so emotional today, even though it's hard. I've had so much support.
Tennis has been amazing to me. I've so grateful to my mom and dad for introducing me to this sport. It's given me so much.
I'm really passionate. I really care about the sport. I really truly care about the players. I know how tough it is. I have so much respect for all the players.
I think the bond that I have formed with players, hoping they know I'm truly in their corner.
Q. We remember you coming on to the scene at such an early age, you've been around a good while. There's so many wonderful things about the sport of tennis. If you had to say the one thing you love the most about this game, what is the one thing that you love the most about it?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I would say I love the competitiveness. I love that you step on a court and it's you that controls your destiny. I would say the relationships have been amazing over the years. It becomes your family. So blessed to be here at the USTA. Patrick McEnroe gave me my opportunity eight or nine years ago. It's been highly rewarding.
I had a wonderful career. But my coaching, you know, it's just been absolutely incredible to kind of be behind the player and empowering these women, kind of being in the shadows and watching them shine, to give back to the game that's given me so much.
Tennis mirrors life. You learn so much about yourself through tennis. To see the young girls going through that, being by their side through the good times, the bad times, the ugly times, the great times, it really is an amazing ride, an amazing journey.
Q. CiCi Bellis seems to have a strong forehand, loves the big stage, very competitive. What is your scouting report on her?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Well, she is amazing. She's an amazing young player. You just nailed it. She loves being on that stage. She loves tennis. She's very passionate about it, as well. She's a fearless competitor. She's a lot of fun to watch. I see her every day out here training hard. She's really dedicated. So many of our young players are. We have a lot of young players coming up. She's a terrific role model. There are many following in her footsteps.
Q. Being that it's your first time captaining, are you excited to come to Hawaii as the first-round tie?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Well, heck, yeah. I am really excited. Maui is beautiful. You couldn't ask for a better venue. I am extremely thrilled. We have a tough match against Germany, but I am up for the challenge. I'm really looking forward to speaking with all the players coming up here shortly. We're looking forward to getting there.
Q. Stacey, could you speak to why this expanded role is so important to the growth and development of American tennis, and how you see this partnership between the team events, player development and community tennis helping grow tennis at every level?
STACEY ALLASTER: At a macro level, if we look at Pro Tennis, it really has been the engine, the financial engine, for the mission. It's been used to provide ranking point opportunities for our American players and their development. It's obviously been a massive marketing tool to promote the sport.
What we want to do is build upon that foundation and use the Pro Tennis assets to inspire kids to play the sport, to inspire kids to stay in the game, particularly those who have aspirations to be on the world stage, and to reward all of the front liners, whether it's coaches or volunteers.
With that, I want to use the Pro Tennis assets to get more kids to play. I want to use the Pro Tennis assets to help Americans win.
Martin has done this unbelievable job in a very short period of time at creating a collaborative environment around Team USA. I said to Martin, I want Pro Tennis to be part of Team USA.
Have Fed Cup and Davis Cup captains really being integrated, having Kathy take on the Fed Cup captain role, she will seamlessly build into it because she's already there on the front lines with the athletes. She knows them. She knows their personal coaches. She's going to know how to maximize the results to help them win.
On the youth side, we really are going to involve more kids on court at the US Open, at the Series events, pro circuit events, team events, to really inspire kids to want to play this sport.
We'll be working more on that in 2017. But breaking down the barriers, making Pro Tennis a part of Team USA, to grow the game and help Americans win.
Q. Kathy, having already worked with a number of the professional and junior players, how beneficial is it for you to already have these existing relationships in place and how can that help you make an immediate impact when you assume this role?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I work closely with the athletes. I think it's going to really help me. I have the relationships. I think it's helpful when you're captain, you have to have some tough conversations sometimes. The players know me. I hope that they know everything comes from my heart, I'm an open book, I'm honest, and I think I have that relationship with them.
I think it can only help the success of the Fed Cup.
Q. Kathy, is there one aspect of this job that terrifies you?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I have been coaching now for a while. I am a little nervous. But as I tell the players, that's a good thing because that means you have a great opportunity ahead of you.
To go in there and think there won't be challenges... Everything meaningful and great has challenges. I'm up for it. I feel like I have good relationships with the players. We're going to be in this as a team. We're going to do this together. I'm going to give it my best.
I can tell you one thing, I'm going to work hard for these players because I really believe in them. Like I said, I'm just so passionate about it. I'm just overwhelmed to have this opportunity.
Q. Obviously you have a variety of talents, like the Williams sisters who have done everything, to a lot of young, raw talent. Do you have a philosophy how you're going to balance making a team? Is it open door to the Williams if they want to come? Do you have to look at the young people, carefully bring in some of the young players? What is your philosophy, if you have one yet?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: The philosophy is to put the best team together, the best team possible, and to win the Fed Cup, to bring it back to the U.S.
Venus and Serena, two of the greatest players of all time to play the game, the impact that they have on tennis and on young women, it's just amazing.
The philosophy is just to look at everybody, to be in everybody's corner, to work with everyone in hopes that those young players will come up and see the commitment that the veteran players make to Fed Cup. It's to put the best team forth.
Q. Talk specifically about the upcoming tie with Germany. Obviously they have the top player in the world right now with Angie. Australia being on the way, will you be there for a couple of weeks or what is the plan?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: In Australia are you asking about?
Q. Facing Germany. Since it's on the way home from Australia, but it's two weeks, will you get with the team to Hawaii earlier than usual?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: That's something that has yet to be planned because I need to meet with the players. That's my first order. I want to meet with each player. I want to talk with them and get a better feel, work with them on that.
Certainly we want to do what's best for each player, what's best for their schedule. If it's best to get there a little bit earlier, that's what we'll do.
I'll probably go straight from the Australian. I'll probably stay there and work with some of the juniors the second week, as well, and hopefully watch many Americans in the second week of the Australian Open.
Again, that all has not been decided until I can meet with the players individually.
Q. And the Germans, obviously with Angie, the top player...
CAPTAIN RINALDI: She had an incredible year. What can you say about Kerber? She's tough. She's the No. 1 ranked player. I'm starting off with a lot of pressure here, but I'm up for it, the challenge. They have quite a few players in the top 100, girls having a good year. They're a solid team obviously.
We need to put together a good, solid team, and come together as one. Really looking forward to it.
Q. Katrina, obviously a big change here, but an important one which could potentially help the USTA mission for many years to come. How excited are you to be a part of this?
KATRINA ADAMS: I'm extremely excited. Any time you are able to represent the United States, particularly in tennis, it's an honor. To be the lead of the organization right now during this change, and understanding the direction we're going with a multitude of new players coming up, in addition to the champions that we already have that are involved in Fed Cup competition, it's a new face, voice and attitude and opportunity for us at the USTA and for the U.S. Fed Cup team.
I'm extremely thrilled in having Kathy at the helm at this time. Mary Joe did an amazing job. She's an amazing champion in her own right who has great respect for Kathy as well. I know the players of today and tomorrow are really looking forward to having the opportunity to play on the team if chosen, and to have that opportunity to win the Cup.
BRENDAN McINTYRE: Thank you, everyone, once again for being on today's call. A special thank you to Katrina and Stacey for taking part. Once again, I'd like to congratulate Kathy Rinaldi on becoming the new U.S. Fed Cup captain.
Thank you everyone.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports