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BNP PARIBAS FED CUP: USA VS BELARUS


November 8, 2017


Captain Rinaldi

Coco Vandeweghe

Sloane Stephens

Shelby Rogers

Alison Riske


Minsk, Belarus

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today for this call with the U.S. Fed Cup team. We're all talking to you from Minsk. On today's call we have Captain Kathy Rinaldi, CoCo Vandeweghe, Sloane Stephens, Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske. The U.S. Fed Cup team will be competing in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas final for its first title since 2000.

I'll turn it over to Captain Kathy Rinaldi who will say a few words.

CAPTAIN RINALDI: Welcome, everybody. Thanks for joining us tonight. We're very excited to be here in the final. It's been a fantastic year for Fed Cup, for American tennis for the women. Happy to share this final with the four girls. We've had a great week thus far, good practices, solid, productive. We're having a lot of fun.

Let's start.

Q. CoCo, a top-10 performance, suddenly breaking into the top 10, you were 16 at the US Open, a big fall for you. Talk about your rise over the last several months.
COCO VANDEWEGHE: The fall season was really difficult for me. It's very hard to find any motivation after US Open because it's such a big tournament for the American players. It was mostly kind of Pat dragging me through the fall season in reality.

I didn't really even know top 10 was capable from just ranking points, all the stuff that goes with the WTA rankings, which I don't really understand, but not my job to understand, I just play tennis, which is the good part.

Just really happy to kind of finish off my year with these girls, playing in the final right now.

Q. You have a tremendous family heritage of team sports. Tennis is so individual, yet the Fed Cup seems to mean the world to you. Speak a little bit about that.
COCO VANDEWEGHE: Well, I grew up playing team sports. Tennis was the last sport I ever played. I'm very used to a team atmosphere first. Even in our individual tennis, it takes a team to get to where we are each and every day. We just transfer it right now to these great girls that are around me.

Q. Kathy and all the other players. There are rumors of a new Fed Cup format. It would bring the Fed Cup final together with the Davis Cup final on neutral ground. Could you give us your thoughts about this new possible format. To the players, how do you feel about an event that is cutting into your off-season, shortening your so-to-speak vacations?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I'm in favor of whatever is going to be best for Fed Cup and Davis Cup and grow it. I think that's the important thing here, is that we grow and people learn more about Fed Cup, we can get behind the Fed Cup and Davis Cup even more.

Q. Any of the players have any thoughts about the shorter off-season because of the Fed Cup?
ALISON RISKE: I mean, I feel like (indiscernible). I feel like at this point in the season, if anyone is in contention of playing in a Fed Cup final, they don't really mind what time of the year it is. Obviously it does interrupt with the off-season. I think all of us that are here are extremely excited and honored to be part of it no matter what part of the season it's in.

Q. Obviously Bethanie is not there with you, though I'm sure she's there in spirit. Can you talk about missing Bethanie, and also about the bonding experience. Kathy makes a big deal about team bonding with this Fed Cup team.
COCO VANDEWEGHE: Bethanie has been busy slicing off her finger (laughter).

Bethanie is a great girl. She'd be here if she could. We miss her dearly not being able to play with us in this big moment.

Q. What about the bonding, that Kathy makes it so important for you guys to bond as a team?
SLOANE STEPHENS: It's actually really fun because obviously when you play week to week, you don't get the chance to hang out with your girls. Obviously this week is fun because we get to do all the stuff together, we get to hang out, do stuff we normally wouldn't do, play games, all of that good stuff.

It's always a really fun week. It's something that we never get to do. We only get to do it twice, three times a year. It's nice to be able to spend it with these lovely young ladies.

Q. CoCo, you've talked about how Fed Cup has made you a better player this year. You've had a tremendous record. Do you feel like a lot rests on your shoulders? Are you feeling the pressure? Does this suit you?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: No, it's a team aspect, so it's definitely not an individual moment. All egos aside, I'm here for these girls in whatever capacity it may be this week.

Q. Sloane, I spoke with Dr. Alexis Colvin last week. She talked about how you have a massive support staff with you. How are you feeling knee and foot-wise? How does it feel having a doctor so far away from home, a doctor and therapist with you?
SLOANE STEPHENS: We have an amazing support staff. Whenever one of us has a problem, we're well taken care of. Doesn't matter if we're home or away. On the USTA's part, they do their best to get us the best doctors, physios, massage therapists, physical trainers. On that front we're all set. Doesn't make a difference if we're near or far.

Q. For all of you, what is Minsk like? What is it going to be like being the favorite in front of what's expected to be a huge crowd?
SHELBY ROGERS: So far Minsk has been nice. The hotel is great. The people have been friendly. It's a little bit cold. We're all bundled up every day. We've had great practices, great days. No matter where we are, it's fun being together. We've had a good time. We're excited for the weekend.

Q. Kathy, you've got CoCo, now in the top 10, and Sloane is a reigning US Open champion, and Venus Williams had a great year, Serena Williams is coming back next year. Do U.S. women control the narrative for women's tennis in 2018?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Well, I think if you look all the way down the line, we're very strong. We've had several players really step up. We have a lot of young players stepping up, even younger than the juniors coming up. It's a very exciting time for women's tennis in the U.S.

I'm just honored to be a part of it, have been a part of it for the last nine, ten years. To see these young ladies reach their goals has been highly rewarding, to be on the outside and watch that happen, see everybody working so hard to achieve their goals.

I think it's going to be a great 2018.

Q. Kathy, what was your reaction when Sloane the US Open?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Well, extremely excited. I was there for three weeks at the US Open watching the American women. To have four in the semis, and when Sloane won, obviously extremely happy for her. I've been watching her since she was in the juniors. It was just a tremendous moment to see her share with her mom and her good friend Maddie Keys. I think it's a moment we won't forget. To share that with her team, couldn't be more proud.

Q. Sloane, what has life been like for you since the US Open? Have things changed? Do you have more interviews? Have you had a chance to get a break?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, it's not really that much different. I haven't purchased anything. I haven't gone anywhere. Like nothing in my life has changed. Nothing new. I still look the same.

COCO VANDEWEGHE: You don't look the same (laughter).

SLOANE STEPHENS: So, yeah, nothing has changed. Just basically, I don't know.

Q. Have you had a chance to get a break at all? Are you going to be taking one after Fed Cup?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I hope so. I mean, I don't know where. I don't know what I'm doing yet. But my main goal, my main focus right now is Fed Cup. After that I'll make plans to do something fun, something like that, enjoy my off-season.

Q. Kathy, talk a little bit about how difficult it was to select this team. I understand Madison bowed out with her wrist. Did you speak with Venus, was she at all interested?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I did speak with Venus. She's been incredibly supportive and terrific with her communication. It's been a long year for her, obviously an amazing year for her as well. So, yeah, I speak to everybody in the top 100 and beyond. I try to communicate with everybody and let them know. So, yeah, I think that's really important to communicate.

Also for everyone to give us their support, we're very lucky with the players, everyone backing each other, which has been amazing.

Q. CoCo, I understand you went to the World War II museum there yesterday. Why did you do that and what was the most important thing you learned?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: Well, I was basically not going to do anything yesterday because I was so crushed from the Asia play. Drug testing got me early in the morning, so I was up early anyway. Pat loves that kind of stuff, Julian, (indiscernible). We all went, just wanted to be tourists. It was the closest thing available.

I really enjoyed myself. It was cool to see it from a different perspective. I heard we could rent tanks and take them out for a ride, which I am really wanting to do. Trying to get the USTA to help us (laughter).

Q. Shelby, talk about your best year in the pros, you made three third rounds in the majors, won two-thirds of a million dollars.
SHELBY ROGERS: Yeah, it was a great year. I think it's really special to end it here in the Fed Cup final with this amazing group of girls. It's been a lot of fun. We're excited for the weekend.

Q. Kathy, did you speak to Billie Jean King before you headed to Minsk? What will it be like for you to be the first U.S. captain since Billie Jean if you were to win?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Yeah, I reached out to Billie. She's been extremely supportive over the years, not just with Fed Cup but with coaching and as a player. I have tremendous respect for her.

Being a female captain, and winning it, I really wanted to pick her brain and just have a good chat with her. She's been great. It would mean a lot obviously for these girls to win this and to be the next female coach since Billie. It would be an honor.

Q. A lot of people don't get to see the hard work and preparation that goes into preparing for something like a Fed Cup final. In the week leading up to an event, how do you balance that combination of practice and off-court obligations keeping you in the right mindset come Saturday and Sunday?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I think it is a delicate balance. Everyone is coming from different situations. You have to be open-minded. The girls have their personal coaches here, as well. I really listen and I observe. I listen and observe, make sure that each player is individually ready to go for Saturday and Sunday, get what they need in.

I think the communication is the biggest tool for that, to make sure that's what we are doing throughout the week. We do have a lot of fun. It's the end of the year. It's a little different than in the beginning of the year. I think everybody is exhausted and they've had a lot of tennis.

With that being said, I know this group of players. They thrive and love playing for their country, so they're going to leave it all on the court. At this point we have to make sure they're getting plenty of rest. You take it day by day to see what the needs are, make sure that each player's needs are met.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

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