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April 18, 2007

Sabine Appelmans

Kristen Flipkens

Tamaryn Hendler


THE MODERATOR: We're about to bring out the team from Belgium. At this predraw press conference this morning, we'll have Kirsten Flipkens, Caroline Maes, Yanina Wickmayer, Tamaryn Hendler and, of course, the captain of the squad, Sabine Appelmans. We will go in a straight Q&A format here.
We'll start with questions, please.

Q. Sabine, you all are obviously in the underdog role here. A chance to shock the world. What are your thoughts about being in that position?
CAPTAIN APPELMANS: Well, I think the girls are doing everything they can to be ready for the weekend. We're working really hard to be ready.
I mean, it's true, there's no pressure on us. Nobody expects us to win. I think every point we win is good. But, of course, we want to do better than that. I told the girls also we have to go out there and believe we can do this. In tennis, everything is possible. I think you have to go out on the court thinking you can win the match.

Q. Sabine, Fed Cup might be the least publicized major women's sporting event in the world. What can you do to make it more popular?
CAPTAIN APPELMANS: Whew, it's a difficult question. It's such a nice competition. I mean, tennis is an individual sport. It's the only chance you get to play with your country in a team. I think for the players also, it's a really nice experience to be together the whole week, to be able to play for your country.
Yeah, it's true, I mean, there should be more people maybe interested in it. But to change, I don't know. I mean, that's a question I cannot answer. I think you have to think about it and see how you can do it. I'm sure they're working on it, to get the people more interested in this competition.
It's not easy for some players. Grand Slams are coming up. Roland Garros is there soon, then Wimbledon. For some players, like for Justine, it's not easy to set her goals for Roland Garros and Wimbledon and also Fed Cup. It's a lot of competition. It's a lot of matches.
It's true, I mean, it's not easy.

Q. The player who has been the member of the Belgian Fed Cup team consistently is Kirsten. This will be your fourth straight Fed Cup?
KIRSTEN FLIPKENS: A little more, I guess (laughter).

Q. Is that experience helpful? Does it give you an edge? Or when you go out there and play in Fed Cup, it's like playing in any other tournament?
KIRSTEN FLIPKENS: No, it's totally different. I think we get the opportunity to play two or three weeks in a year with a team. I think it's a great competition. I just love to play it.
I think it's also helpful now for the young players to stimulate and see what it is all about.

Q. Sabine, can you run through a little bit of the process of whatever conversations you had with Kim and Justine. Did you try to even convince them to change their minds? Were they not even receptive? You mentioned the schedule, but Serena and Venus are here.
CAPTAIN APPELMANS: Well, I came in as a coach when the team was already set. But, I mean, Kim we know that this is her last year on the tour. Actually she didn't want to set her goals. She's getting married the second time Fed Cup is played this year, the 14th July. She knew she couldn't be there. It wasn't a goal for her this year.
Justine had a really tough time in the beginning of the year. She wanted to get back to No. 1 in the world. Her goal was to do well in the Grand Slams. I think at this moment it's more important for her. We hope she'll be playing in the future. But, I mean, I think everybody understands at this moment her individual career and her ranking is more important to her.

Q. What kind of strategy do you use against Serena and Venus who, when they're healthy, have a very good record in Fed Cup? Is it to run them a lot, get them thinking that maybe it isn't going to come so easy?
CAPTAIN APPELMANS: They hit the ball so hard, so you have to be ready for that. We're working a lot this week on very aggressive play, try to keep the ball in play with a good pace.
First of all, you have to try to read the serve maybe because I think we'll have to gamble once in a while because they serve really well. I think for the girls it's going to be very important to serve well, as well, to get a lot of first serves in, then make them play.

Q. Kirsten, when you were here two years ago, you had I think a back injury. Have you solved that problem? Is it still periodically a difficulty for you?
KIRSTEN FLIPKENS: Oh, for sure it was a difficult period. But it's over now. It's not bothering me any more. That's a good thing. I'm happy and healthy to be here. It's a new start. It's the second time I'm here. Hopefully I'll be ready for the weekend.

Q. You retired from a couple of matches this year. Why?
KIRSTEN FLIPKENS: I had some problems with my health. In the beginning of the year, I twisted my ankle, then I got sick. I had a little physical problems. But this week I'm hundred percent, so I hope I'll be ready for the weekend.

Q. What sort of atmosphere do the players anticipate this weekend? Does it make it even more of a challenge since you're on opposing turf? Is that something you look forward to, all the flag-waving?
CAPTAIN APPELMANS: The whole atmosphere? Tamaryn, go ahead.
TAMARYN HENDLER: It's going to be a great atmosphere. It's give you a lot of encouragement when you see a bunch of Belgian flags. I'm sure there will be even more American flags. It gives you a lot of ambition to do even better. When you can look up into the stands, see your flag, big, shining, and when you look on the other side, see the American flags, it's great.

Q. Caroline and Tamaryn, Venus is coming off an injury period. She sort of slides out of the game for a while, comes back, always competes at a high level. Serena does the same. What do you think about a player that can take time off from the game, come back and compete at a championship level?
TAMARYN HENDLER: That's great credit to her. She can come back and make even better results than she was before she was injured. I mean, it just shows great, great fighting spirit, to come back after a being injured, already have done so much, to have the ambition to come back and do even better, it's great to have a player like that.

Q. Sabine, as we all know, Kim will be retiring July 14th. Would you take a moment and reflect on her career, what she's done for tennis, particularly what it's meant for you as a fellow tennis player.
CAPTAIN APPELMANS: Well, both of the girls. Kim has been very important for tennis in Belgium. All the clubs are still full. We have a lot of people starting to play tennis because of her. But not only was she a great champion on the court but also outside the court. She's won a lot of awards because she was one of the best-loved players on the tour. I'm sure they're going to miss her not only on the court but also especially off the court. She's a really nice character. She's very competitive on the court but a really nice girl off the court.
For me, particularly, I've always -- she's like the next generation and I've always looked up to her in a way that she has this unbelievable fighting spirit. For her, tennis always stayed a game for her, a part of her life that was very important, and she did everything she could, but she knew there was something else besides that. She stayed always quite relaxed. She's had a lot of injuries. She came back from injuries. But it's been a great career.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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