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April 21, 2010

Mary Joe Fernandez

Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Melanie Oudin


Q. I guess Mary Joe, the big question, what is the status of Venus at this time?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Unfortunately, I just heard from her an hour ago, and she's not going to be ready to be fit enough to come. So she apologizes. She wishes she was here, but hasn't been able to play enough and move enough on the leg.
So we're disappointed, but we understand. We're kind of used to not having either Venus or Serena around, so it's not like a shock to the team that really disrupts it. This is really the core group of the team and the team that has played all the ties together.
So we were looking forward to having her here and having her, for the first time, be part of this group. But as I said, unfortunately she's not ready.

Q. How did you balance wanting one of the world's best players here and also team cohesiveness and making sure everyone understands what their roles are during the week?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Well, I think every time we have a tie, you know, we want to bring Serena and Venus because they're the best players in the world. The ultimate goal is to win.
At the same time, this team has very good chemistry. We would have seen what it would have done to the team having one of them here, but hopefully we'll find out in the future.
But as of now, this team has gelled very well together. They've had great chemistry and they work very hard.
So, you know, it's just a matter of doing the best you can and going forward.

Q. In terms of the players who are here, Melanie, with Dementieva probably gonna be the Russian No. 1, a little bit of history there. You beat her at the US Open, and you guys had a really great match in Paris as well. How do you feel about matching up with her? You certainly mowed down the Russians at the US Open.
MELANIE OUDIN: Yeah, I mean, I'm pretty excited to be on the team again. The fact that we're home is gonna be great. I think there's gonna be a lot of people here cheering for us.
So yeah, I'm actually really looking forward to playing Elena again, because both off our matches have been some really, really good tennis. It's a great experience for me getting to go play her. She's such a great player. I'm looking forward to this whole weekend, both matches.

Q. Melanie, being back and team and playing so close to home, now that you're this close, how many people can you expect to see in the stands? I know it's just a short drive from Atlanta.
MELANIE OUDIN: Yeah, I'm really excited. I know a lot of my friends are coming and a lot of people from my academy in Atlanta are coming. It's really exciting for me to play in front of them, and I think for all of us to have the home support.
We've been away for a while now. It's gonna be really, really nice to have the crowd cheering for us this time.

Q. Also, Mary Joe, you probably didn't have this in the back of your mind, this scenario -- I guess the Venus thing would have been a bonus -- but talk about as far as how you might assign the rest of your lineup, and are you adding a player later in the week? Will this mean Bethanie is gonna play both singles and doubles? I guess talk about that.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, I mean, we make up the lineup Thursday night. Bethanie played last time -- actually she's played the last couple times she's been on the team.
So she's ready to go. We have Sloane and Julia here as part of the team, so one of them will probably step in to make the fourth spot, and, you know, be complete.
But our team, you know, our young ones are always part of team whether they're officially on the lineup or not.

Q. Mary Joe, talk about not having the top players in the country representing the U.S. in a competition like this. And secondly, just out promoting tennis in this country, building it back up, how important that would be, and do you think that hurts it at all?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Sure. I mean, I think everybody knows it's a huge attraction when Venus and Serena play. They've done so much for the game and have been around for such a long time at a very high level. Like he said, it would have been a bonus to have either one or both of them here.
Having said that, we have our top players. You know, I've always said in the past - and this is something that I learn from Billie Jean King - you want the team that wants to be there. You want the team that believes in playing for their country and makes it a huge priority and commitment.
I have that from the players that are here. That's really the most important thing. It's great to be in Birmingham, a site that doesn't see tennis that often. It got to see Davis Cup last year, and hopefully we're gonna a great turnout and great fan support.
It's fun for us. We did a clinic yesterday with the grassroots and the younger children to try to inspire and really promote the game of tennis everywhere we can.
It's nice to be home, like Melanie said, and play a home tie.

Q. Where is women's tennis in this country right now? Shape? Bad shape? Are you concerned?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: No. I think it's in good shape. We still have Venus and Serena, 1 and 4 in the world. You can't complain about that.
And then looking at the women who are here, starting with Melanie and what she did in a 12-month period. She's up to 31 in the world already, so it's building.
It's part of the process to get the next generation going. We've been very fortunate and blessed in this country that we've always had a superstar, whether it's on the men's or the women's side. It takes hard work. It takes time sometimes. It's not magic.
So we're seeing it. We're seeing the young players develop and improve and having good results.

Q. Bethanie, the lineup will be officially announced Friday, but most likely you'll play both singles and doubles. Does officially knowing that you'll play both singles and doubles affect your practice mindset at all?
BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS: Well, coming here I was planning on playing singles anyway. You can't train for what you don't know, so I planned on playing singles and doubles coming here.

Q. Mary Joe, talk a little bit about the strengths and weaknesses of the Russian team as you see them.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Well, the Russian team that's here, I know Dementieva very well. She's been around a very long time and I've seen her through the years. I remember when she made her breakthrough ten years ago. We know her well.
The other -- I think one is just here, Makarova, and the other one is coming tonight, Kudryavtseva.
I've seen a little bit. I've seen a little bit more of Kudryavtseva than Makarova. The team knows them. They're great players.
(Recording interrupted.)
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Having said that, it's just a lot of pride that you take in representing your country and team, and a huge responsibility.
So as a player, you know, whenever I got the opportunity it was a thrill. Now being back on the team as the captain, it's as special or even more special to be able to give back and contribute and be able to watch how hard the team works and how much they care about it.

Q. Mary Joe, I shouldn't have left you out of my question a minute ago.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: That's okay. I'm a lot older.

Q. Obviously at some point somebody inspired you. Who did a that for you? How important is that for young tennis players to see the people that inspired you?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think it's really important to have a hero, a role model, someone you look up to. For me it was Chris Evert on the women's side and Bjorn Borg on the men's side. I remember watching Wimbledon finals and falling to my knees every time Borg fell to his knees right afterwards.
So it's great to have that incentive and inspiration. Obviously if you get to meet them afterwards it's amazing. You have to sort of pinch yourself.
But it is. I think for everyone that wants to play and loves to play, to have that sort of role model, hero, to look up to and follow is huge.

Q. For the players, you guys have been playing on clay: Charleston and Florida and come back to hardcourt and go back to clay, is that an easy or difficult transition? Does it just matter what you're used to playing on? How do you feel about that?
BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS: Well, it's definitely tough. I mean, the last time we were all actually used to hardcourts going to France, and we had to go play on indoor red clay and we did it. So you just adjust.
I think you just adjust the whole year. Every surface is different, whether -- it's hardcourts everywhere. Some are fast and some are slow. That's why we get here a couple days in advance, to get used to it.

Q. Bethanie, you've been playing as well last year, but just talk about being able to play on the team, the team aspect. You play a lot doubles, which gets you out of the grind of singles all the time. Talk about having a break from the grind. You have to be self-absorbed to an extent because it's your own career, but to be able to play on a team for a week here and there, you're able to put that aside and play for sort of like the home team sort of thing.
BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS: I think it's great playing on a team. The USTA does a great job taking care of everything. Normally I'm taking care of flights and this and that, and it's all taken care of. They hand you your room key and everything is set.
It's great. You get a little feeling of what, I guess, team sports are kind of like. It's definitely a cool change up.
THE MODERATOR: Anyone else? Okay. Thank you very much.

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