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April 19, 2019
San Antonio, Texas
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Sloane, back on the team for the first time this year. Talk a little bit how you're looking forward to the tie.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, we've had a great week here so far. Just looking forward to the matches tomorrow and on Sunday. Obviously it's Easter weekend. Just happy. Good team, good girls, celebrating a good tie, good Easter.
Q. Can you assess the draw a little bit, Kathy.
CAPTAIN RINALDI: The matches?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Very excited to start the competition. Obviously Switzerland has a strong, talented squad. But love my team. We're ready to go.
Q. Madison, what do you think of the opportunity to start for the team?
MADISON KEYS: I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited to get out there and play matches after we've had a week of practice, getting ready obviously for this weekend.
So excited to finally get out there and play matches.
Q. How do you think the hard court suits your game?
MADISON KEYS: I think it's great. I would say it's medium speed. Obviously I love hard courts, all of that. It was a pretty easy transition for me after playing on clay the last couple of weeks.
Q. Kathy, obviously you come in as ranking-wise heavy favorites. How do you make sure the team stays locked in?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: We've had a good week of practice. We're just focusing on each day, what we're trying to accomplish. We've done our homework. We're ready to go. We're just going to take it one match at a time.
Q. Kathy, different scenario for you. Obviously your first year you won as the captain. Last year to the final. Now you're playing to get back in the World Group. Talk about the importance of this tie.
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Any tie is important. Obviously when we're representing our country, we all have one common goal here: to win for our country. This one in particular, yeah, we want to win, just like any other tie.
We had a tough match in February against Australia. We're here to compete, one match at a time. Have a strong squad. Everybody is going to have each other's backs.
Q. Sofia and Jessica, talk about playing together. Particularly Jessica, this would be your first Fed Cup appearance.
JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah. It's my first Fed Cup, so I'm really excited. I'm excited to play with Sonia here this week, the doubles. Think we'll make a really solid team.
Yeah, just excited to go out there and compete and have fun.
SOFIA KENIN: I'm really excited to play doubles here with Jessica. We've had a few practices. I think we'll do well in doubles. Looking forward to playing with her, and go USA.
Q. Talk about the experience today this morning.
SLOANE STEPHENS: I think it was a great experience, especially for them. I think all three of us had fun. There were two little girls that interviewed us at the end.
Yeah, I mean, it's always good to see young kids out playing tennis, trying to do what we can for the kids.
Q. Sloane, this is a very young team, the second youngest Fed Cup team we've ever had for the U.S. Do you feel like a leader as one of the more experienced players on the squad?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No. Obviously I've grown up playing with all these girls. I don't think there's one person that's the leader. I think we all kind of complement each other. We have a good vibe, good vibes in the team.
Just, yeah, happy to be here. Excited to be with the girls. Yeah, everyone's equal, the same, we have good chemistry.
Q. Madison, anything different about being at an event like this playing for your country as opposed to another event?
MADISON KEYS: It's always different playing for your country. It's bigger than just you. It's always an honor to be on a Fed Cup team. I'm always very excited to get to play for my country, be in a team environment because that obviously doesn't happen very often.
I always really love Fed Cup weeks.
Q. Sloane, what did you get out of the experience working with Kathy? What's it like working with her?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Be kind, Sloane (laughter).
SLOANE STEPHENS: Kathy is great. Obviously I've known her for a long time. Her being Fed Cup captain, we spend a lot of time together anyway. We had some good weeks together. I know she's excited for me to get a new coach. She's pushing, We're going to find somebody soon (laughter).
Yeah, I'm glad that we're back to Fed Cup weeks. I'm sure, yeah, obviously Kathy supports us all throughout the year. It was nice to have her. I know that she's happy not to be coaching me any more, just for the Fed Cup weeks.
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Wow!
Q. Why is it important to participate in this compared to other events?
MADISON KEYS: Because it's bigger than just playing for yourself. We play for ourselves almost every week of the year. So being able to come out and represent your country means a lot to us.
Q. Has this week been different for you than other weeks when you're out on tour in terms of how much time you spend together? When you're out on the tour, do you particularly spend a lot of time together, or has this week been kind of special hanging out together?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I'll take it.
Well, I don't know how much time -- I think they spend some time together. They're all friends off the court. I think this week, in particular, we try to do some team activities just to build that camaraderie, to have fun with one another, maybe get to know each other a little bit better than we did in the beginning of the week. I think in that aspect, this week is extremely special.
I know to me as captain, that's really important that I try and make this an experience for the girls that they're going to remember forever. One day when they look back on their careers, hopefully they say that some of these Fed Cup weeks stand out, stand out as far as really special experiences.
Q. Sloane, Madison, why do you think people are fascinated by your friendship?
MADISON KEYS: I don't know.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, you go.
MADISON KEYS: People are weird (laughter).
SLOANE STEPHENS: That's right.
I mean, I call Maddie my work wife. I know Jess, this is the first time Jess and I have actually spent a lot of time together, this week. I think she was a little bit annoyed with me last night because I was playing 21 Questions about her life.
Fed Cup weeks are great weeks to get to know people you don't spend a lot of time with. I think this week has been really good because I've been kind of able to get the to know the girls a little bit better. When we get back on the road, I'm going to be getting free products from her business (laughter).
This has been a good week as far as team bonding. That's obviously what Fed Cup weeks are about.
Q. Why do you think people have focused so much attention on Sloane and Madison being friends?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I don't know. Who cares. It's just like normal. We're friends, fun, whatever. I don't know.
Q. Do you think it's because maybe you're both two of the more highly ranked players in the world?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I can tell you what I think. Look at these faces (laughter).
I do, I think because they represent two of the top players. I think they're both tremendous role models. I think, you know, you don't see every day two really top players maybe have as close of a friendship as they do. That's probably why people are most interested in that.
They also happen to be from the same country.
Q. Sloane, in those 21 Questions, what was interesting that you can reveal to us about Jess?
SLOANE STEPHENS: There's, like, some really interesting ones. She has her own skin care line. What's it called?
JESSICA PEGULA: Ready24, online.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Buy it online, Ready24 (laughter).
Then Maddie, we all have younger siblings that are around the same age. We've kind of figured out everyone that's younger in that age group, they struggle in life. We were just talking about all the struggles of having younger siblings. We have very similar younger siblings. I think we bonded well over that.
Q. Anyone, some impressions with San Antonio? Have you done anything? Looks like a pretty cool place.
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Yeah, I mean, obviously San Antonio is amazing. The River Walk. Went down to the Pearl District, which was amazing. We did a couple fun activities. Went to the McFarland Tennis Center, did a clinic there for 100 women, elite players, which was a lot of fun. We learned about Fiesta. And about the Spurs?
Q. Have any of you ever done a tennis press conference in a place like the Alamo, that would be similar?
SLOANE STEPHENS: At another Fed Cup tie?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: How about the girls down here?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, you go (laughter).
Q. Needless to say, this is a pretty unique experience.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Definitely.
MADISON KEYS: Yes, for sure.
Q. Sloane and Madison, do you like playing each other? When that happens, how do you deal with it?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I mean, it's just like any other match. We go out, we play. Then we text after. I don't know.
MADISON KEYS: Same as if it was any other match. I mean, obviously it's the same. We move on with our lives.
SLOANE STEPHENS: You just move on. It's not the end of the world. If she beats me, if I beat her, it's whatever. We still move on. We still have eight thousand other weeks to play because our season never ends.
MADISON KEYS: Yeah.
Q. Kathy, what does it mean to have players like Sloane and Madison to anchor this team for years to come?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: Obviously you want your best players to play and represent your country, play Fed Cup. Yeah, it's awesome to have Madison and Sloane here, absolutely. It's great for some of our younger players, as well.
But I believe in all these girls. I've known them for a very long time. They all have something to offer. They all bring something a little different. That's what makes us such a great team.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports