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February 9, 2018

Paul Haarhuis

Richel Hogenkamp

Arantxa Rus

Lesley Kerkhove

Demi Schuurs

Asheville, North Carolina

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Can you speak to the matchups this weekend, the two singles on day one.
PAUL HAARHUIS: Well, it's going to be tough. Arantxa is going to start off with Venus. I think, yeah, she's in good form. She's looking forward to it.

I asked her before the draw, I said to her, Do you like to play first or second?

She said, I'd like to play first.

I told Denise, can you work that out? Yeah, they did it, so... It's nice.

Arantxa is happy about that. She's happy about the form. We're looking forward to the tie. I think, yeah, we're going to do some special things here in weekend. I've got that feeling.

The second matchup, the same. Richel said, I'd like to play second. So it was perfect. This is how it starts tomorrow, the way we like. Let's see if we can continue on the things that we like.

Q. Were you maybe surprised that Serena wasn't in the singles? Were you expecting her? Does it change the approach?
PAUL HAARHUIS: No, I wasn't surprised. Nothing changed because they have a phenomenal team. If they leave out the first four, bring in four new ones, we're still not favored. It didn't change anything. We're not going to change our practice. We're not going to change our mind. We're still going to eat at the same restaurant, yeah.

Q. Coach, earlier this week you criticized the condition of the court. They did a little work last night on it. What are your thoughts on it now?
PAUL HAARHUIS: Well, the girls said it's playing better than in the beginning of the week, so they worked very hard. That's a good sign. Every now and then still some rough bounces. But we saw Venus kick a flat ball over Lauren. That's the way it goes. Some go your way, some go against you.

But the court looks better. They worked hard at getting it fixed.

Q. Arantxa, can you speak to playing Venus tomorrow. What are you expecting from that matchup? What approach are you going to have?
ARANTXA RUS: I never played against her. I'm looking forward to it. It's really nice to play Fed Cup here again. We have a great week here with the girls, and the captain, of course.

Q. You had a great start to the year in doubles, Demi. Eight wins already this year. Speak to playing with Lesley, how much you get to play with her.
DEMI SCHUURS: Actually it's the first time we play together. We practiced this week some doubles. I think we played, like, a good game. We're looking forward to play on the weekend. We'll see. We go for it.

Q. It's a daunting task, your coach has said this week. Not surprising to any of you guys. When you are such tremendous underdogs, maybe one of the biggest underdogs in Fed Cup history, how do you work through that as athletes, continue to be focused and positive, hope for the best?
RICHEL HOGENKAMP: I think from the moment we started with this team few years ago, I think we've always been the underdog. We had just great weeks of practice every week. We are ready for the weekend.

I think this weekend is a little different than the past weekends because what Paul already said. They have a great team with some Grand Slam champions, with a lot of good players.

Yeah, we've been practicing hard this week. I think the underdog fits us very well. We will see how it goes this weekend. We're going to give 100% like we always do. I think that's all we do.

Q. During the draw ceremony, The Netherlands was announced as a team on the rise. Obviously with wins being at the forefront of what you want to accomplish this weekend, there's a lot going on for this team in the years to come. What would you like to see more than anything else this weekend that affirms The Netherlands is a tennis team on the rise?
PAUL HAARHUIS: Obviously to see each individual get their rankings up. If you get your ranking up, it means you must be putting good results. Obviously some of these girls are very, very close to the top 100. It would be nice if they can get back into the top 100, stay there, slowly go towards 80. Make sure every slam they are in the main draw. It's very important when you're at that level to be in the slams and to compete at the highest levels and at the biggest tournaments. That's what I look forward to, seeing these girls back in the top 100.

When you are individually better, each one is individually better, then also you're a better team.

Q. With Kiki not here this week, you're the No. 1 ranked Dutch player on the team. Do you take a sense of pride in leading your team this weekend?
RICHEL HOGENKAMP: Yeah, of course it's an honor to be No. 1 of the team. I think we always had a great No. 1 with Kiki in our team. She did great results in the past.

But I think we have a pretty strong team here as well. I'm not taking any extra responsibility because I think Arantxa still played some more ties than me. She's also a little bit a leader.

But I think we're all having a lot of fun together. We feel that we really are a team. It was the same when Kiki was there. She was higher in rank, but we really were a team. I think that's really our strength the past years, nobody felt better than the other ones. I think that's our biggest strength, and still is.

Q. Paul, when you transition from an individual sport to a team competition, how much communication do you have with the players during the year? Do you stay in the background?
PAUL HAARHUIS: I stay in the background. They have their own coaches. I travel to the slams. Obviously I try to stay in touch with them, but not on a weekly basis where I see them or talk to them every week.

But I obviously stay in touch with their results. I try to visit them when they are practicing in Holland and see them in Holland. Try to do that more often.

Yeah, I see them at the slams, so... It's not a year-long traveling for me, that I go to Lesley, Arantxa and those tournaments, that's not how I work.

Q. For any of the players. On Wednesday coach said there would be no fun, you guys wouldn't have time to do anything in town.
PAUL HAARHUIS: I didn't say that. I didn't say there was no time for fun because we have a lot of fun. No time for sight-seeing.

Q. My apologizes. What are some of the things that you've got to do around town, part of Asheville you've seen?
LESLEY KERKHOVE: Yeah, Richel and me, we were here last Saturday because we played last week a tournament. We were here a little earlier. We went to the Biltmore Estate house. I think it was very nice to visit. Richel, I think you didn't like it that much.

PAUL HAARHUIS: After 20 rooms...

LESLEY KERKHOVE: It was enough. But it was really nice to visit here. I mean, yeah, we have a lot of fun with the team. We play some games with dinner. I think we have a lot of fun together.

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