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November 5, 2010
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Mary Joe, could you talk us through the thought process of your choices?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Sure. Basically we had three singles players that could play. We played our practice all week. We took a lot into consideration: the surface, the opponents. This year the Italians flipped 1 and 2. We knew that Schiavone being No. 1 would play our No. 2.
Yesterday, after a day of practice, after picking Bethanie to play, knowing she was our highest ranked, we knew she would play at the end of the first day. Then thinking who the best matchup for Schiavone would be. She's such a different style of player than I think the players are accustomed.
You know, decided with Coco. With her height, her serve, her ability to really hit the ball up here, that's a good choice to start the day.
Had it been reversed, Melanie probably would have started against Pennetta because she matches up very well against her. So it was really a matchup decision.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Doubles can always be switched. But we've had the team practice all together. Liezel has played with every single one of them and she's very flexible. You know, everybody can play. So we'll see when it comes down to it who is going to play.
Q. It seems like you're keeping things open Sunday for singles?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Absolutely. Again, it's the matchups that are important. You just have to see.
So very easily we could switch. Melanie could play the big match. Melanie has been my MVP of Fed Cup really. She started with very little experience. We were down 2-1 in Surprise, found a way to battle hard and come through for us and stay alive and win. Every since then, you guys know the story, how she's improved, her determination, the fight she plays with. When things count, when things matter, you always want Melanie in there.
She's ready. Everybody is ready. Everybody knows that day one anybody can play. So it's a team effort. I think in the predraw we talk about it. Whether you're playing or not playing, you're contribution is equal.
Q. Melanie, are you disappointed at all not to be playing tomorrow?
MELANIE OUDIN: I mean, of course I wanted to play. But the thing is that, uhm, it's not my decision, it's Mary Joe's decision. I think she made a good decision based on the team we have here.
Coco has been playing really, really well this week. The court I think really suits her game, as well as her big serve. So, uhm, I'm really happy to be on the team and I'll be out there to support tomorrow.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think the greatest thing about this team is everybody wants to play, everybody wants to be out there. That as a captain is what you hope for, that desire to be the one, to show your best all the time.
So I feel very lucky to have three players that were willing and committed to being the ones that started off.
Q. When did you tell the team?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Last night.
Q. Coco, I think you're the first in 10 or 15 years to make a playing debut in a final. What are your thoughts about that?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: I'm really excited to represent my country tomorrow. That it's in a finals, it's a great accomplishment. Just to know that Mary Joe and my teammates think that I can beat Francesca tomorrow is great motivation for me. To have that support is wonderful and I can't ask for anything better.
Q. Coco, do you think you can beat Francesca tomorrow? What do you have to do to do so?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: Yes, of course I think I can beat Francesca. You don't ever want to go out to a match that you think you're going to lose.
We're going to discuss a game plan of how to play Francesca tomorrow, what kind of suits my game style against her game style, implement my game style to the best of my ability. That's what Mary Joe and I discussed last night. Just play the way I want you to play and do it to the best of your abilities. Whatever outcome comes out, I just want you to play the best you can and correctly, play smart tennis that I've seen you play before.
Q. Bethanie, you've never played Schiavone either. You played Pennetta a couple years ago. A bunch of three-set matches. How do you feel matching up with both of them?
BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS: You know, I'm always excited to play top players. They're both obviously highly ranked. Francesca coming off her French Open win this year. I think they feel pretty confident.
I'm really feeling confident in my game. I ended my season really well. I think I improved a lot this year and I'm feeling good.
You know, I'm really excited.
Q. Liezel, not to put you on the spot, but you are the veteran on this team. What is your gut feel going into this weekend about the matchups? Do you feel good for the U.S.?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: She better (laughter).
LIEZEL HUBER: Well, going into it last year, I said we walk the walk, we talk the talk kind of thing. In hindsight, I think that was a bit cocky. I just thought we would go in there and sweep them, seeing that we had such a good run throughout the year.
Now coming into this Fed Cup, we've had a great run. You always have a chance going into every tie. But every tie we go into, we take it match by match, game by game. We're not like the guaranteed win team.
So it's like when Coco goes on that first match, I already feel the adrenaline and the nerves and everything. We are going into Coco's match. We're not going into the next match, we're not going into the doubles. What we're hoping for, yes, we hope that we clinch it before we get to the doubles, or the doubles is that one.
But we're going to have a more mellow attitude, I think. We're going to try our hardest, give our best. I think that's what we do throughout the year. That's what we did last year. That's what we'll keep continuing to do in the future. That's what Mary Joe has created for this team.
I think with these young players on the team, they're so talented, that's why they're doing so good, because they work so hard.
So really we're just going to go out there for the first point. Coco, you better serve an ace on that first point.
Q. Coco, could you give us the setting when you found out. Was it in the team hotel, inside a meeting room? Discuss what the emotions must have been like inside of you when you found out, I'm playing?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: Well, we were getting ready for dinner because we had a short window between where we had to meet up for dinner. Mary Joe asked me to meet where we usually meet up for breakfast and lunch, sat me down and said, We think that you're the best matchup for tomorrow against Schiavone. If we didn't believe that you could win, then we would not be putting you out there. That's the kind of confidence you have to have when you go out there and compete tomorrow.
That was the setting basically.
Q. Liezel, I think when we left Birmingham, the three of you who had been there the whole time did basically say you would like to have the chance to play the finals and win. Are you happy it's turned out that you are going to be able to have an opportunity to bring it home as opposed to the other possibility that was one point on the table?
LIEZEL HUBER: Which other possibility (laughter)?
You know, it's been a long year. It's been for me probably rating-wise, tennis-wise, in my personal life, it's been a really rough year. For me, I wouldn't want to be at any other place but right here. And I think if I can speak for the rest of the team, that's where they want to be: right here.
It's been a long year. We're all looking forward to starting the new year fresh, revamping ourselves, changing our strokes and getting fit. But we are truly a family. I maybe have a different accent than them, but we are truly a family. We get along so well and we really respect each other.
Win or lose, you know, we know the other one is going to give their hardest and try their best. So I'm really, really honored to have this be my team this week, if that answers your question.
Q. Going into a bit more depth, when you say, We are a family, how do you come together, support each other? What does that mean for you?
LIEZEL HUBER: Well, during the year, I remember I loaned Mel some money for a cab ride in Paris and she still hasn't given me the money back. That's kind of how we are as a family. Bethanie and I hooked up for doubles. We had a great run at Wimbledon. Her first semifinal. So there we are family. Coco and I shared a trainer in Asia. Coco didn't pay for it, but he was there for her. Coco let me share her trainer. Mary Joe, Bethanie and myself are on the same charades team so that makes us even closer knit.
We check in with each other on the road. It's like we're all kind of spread out in the country, but I'm trying to be really nice to Mel because I want her to do a charity event with me next year. We're just really spread out, but we really are on each other's Facebooks and are really good friends with each other and I expect Christmas presents (smiling).
Q. Mary Joe, obviously it's going to be a exciting atmosphere. How do you keep the players from not getting overexcited and sticking to the game plan?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Yes, that's very important. This is the first time we're hosting the final in 10 years. I'm hoping we're going to have a great turnout, that we're going to have a lot of fans cheering us on. It is something you have to get used to.
Everybody has experienced it, except Coco, but Coco has been on two teams, so she's been part of the fans cheering for us. So she knows what to expect out there.
Yeah, it's about using it to your advantage and really drawing from that adrenaline and that rush. And I think Bethanie really felt it in Birmingham on the last day, how a crowd can really make a difference, how they can really bring you up and keep you going.
So I think we just have to use it as best as possible and channel it to play well. But obviously you've got to stay focused and stay on the game plan.
Q. Mary Joe, in one sense, is it a little bit more to your benefit having Coco playing first as the rookie and Bethanie has been around Fed Cup for quite a while playing second?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Really doesn't matter that much. Obviously, the first match I would say is a big match to set the tone. But I think we've lost the first match quite a few times and still have come back to win.
I think for Coco playing her first Fed Cup, it's good that it's first because there's no 1-Love up or down. It's just her match, as it's her first round of a tournament, which I think could be good. I'm happy that the matchup with Schiavone is on the first day. Whether she wins or loses, it's not a deciding match. So I'm happy with the way that turned out.
Q. Coco, which is the biggest surprise for you: when Mary Joe phoned you to say you were on the team or watching a sea lion pick out your match?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: That sea lion experience is something I'll never forget.
But getting the phone call to say that I was going to be a part of the team was an exciting moment for me and also a great honor. I've been a part of the ties, but not been on the team. To be able to represent my country in any way, shape or form is just a great honor.
I'm going to be excited for when Bethanie is out there playing, when Melanie is out there playing, when Liezel is kicking butt in doubles. I'm here to be a team player. That's the great thing about Fed Cup, is the team environment. We're all here supporting each other.
Q. On the surface, Melanie you described it as mud last year.
MELANIE OUDIN: It was.
Q. What is the feeling of the surface? How did you choose it? How is the ball moving through the air?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: It's definitely not mud. It was cold and rainy and damp last year in it Italy.
But, no, it's a surface that everybody on this team enjoys. It's a bit on the faster side, similar to what we played in Birmingham. Everybody here enjoys that.
I think, you know, the Italians are well-rounded, they can play on anything. But I'd say the mud is probably their best surface.
I think for us, this is our best opportunity again with the matchups to play against them.
Q. I think the prevailing opinion is you are the underdogs. In a way, is that a favor to you going in with a little less pressure?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: You know, I'm not a big believer in the underdog doesn't have pressure. We've been the underdog every time pretty much. I think maybe once, maybe against France or something, we were on paper maybe a little bit ranked ahead.
But there's always pressure. And it's a final. We want to win. We want to bring the Fed Cup back to this country.
So, sure, we have our hands full because we are the underdogs. But even if we were the favorites, it's the same deal. You go out there, like Liezel said, you play every match. You want to thrive under these conditions. This is what you play for. You play for the pressure and the opportunity to win a Fed Cup title.
Q. Liezel, the Williams sisters are the most highly ranked Americans. Be it injury or schedule, they have chosen not to play Fed Cup. Your reaction to that? Secondly, this is the core team that has got the U.S. to this point. You women wanted to be here in the final. Talk about the pride you have that you got here and you're the ones playing in the final.
LIEZEL HUBER: Well, I mean, I can't speak for Venus or Serena. I actually know them maybe not as well as Mary Joe. But I sit on committees with them, do things with them. I'm quite friendly with them.
The last time I discussed Fed Cup with them was a year ago in Doha. That's when they were tired or injured. So I can't speak for them as such. Like you will hear me say this, this is the team. We made decisions over the last couple years, and we never go back and say, We shouldn't have made that decision.
Yes, there was some time in Czech Republic where Bethanie and I were down match points. We were debating should Alexa have played or Bethanie have played. I still think we made the right decision going into that tie. But Alexa was on such a high at that point, maybe Alexa would have beaten them by herself.
We're such a team. It seems like every time there's something that comes up unexpected, we just go with what it is. If the Williams sisters played on this tie, it would be awesome also.
Kind of how we practice and play the whole week is the selection that comes into who lines up for the weekend. I'm not saying they wouldn't have played. If somebody else is healthier and played, this is an audition for whoever plays at the end of the tie.
Q. Have either of you heard from Venus or Serena this week wishing you well?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I heard from them.
Q. Any chance either one of them will be here this weekend?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I don't think they're going to be here this weekend.
They're pretty good with communication, emails back and forth. I know they're both very disappointed with their season, not being able to play. I think Venus played one tournament, the US Open, since Wimbledon. Serena hasn't been able to play at all. I think they're pretty down in the dumps right now the way the second half of the year went for them.
Q. When did you hear from them?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: It's a weekly thing.
Q. During this week?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Yeah.
Q. Mary Joe, I only get an opportunity to see your coaching on television. You seem so into it. Talk about your role as coach. Do you love it? What's surprising to you? Are there any down sides?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: There's absolutely no down sides. I can tell you I love it more than I expected that I would. I remember when I took the job, my family was like, Wow, you're going to be away a little bit more. Are you sure this is what you want? After coming back from my first tie, everyone was like, Wow, you had a great time.
Now, I feel like my team is my family also. It's my new group of children. And I learned from the best. I learned from Billie Jean King. She's been so inspirational to me. She's always giving me advice. The best advice is every person is different, you have to treat them differently. Some people like to be talked to. Some people don't like to be talked to. It's a learning curve.
What I've been lucky is I've had the same group of women on my team where I've learned what works best with each one. And every tie you learn something else, you learn something more.
We really have come a long way in two years. I think that's one of the reasons, usually being underdogs, they come through, because they work so well together.
So it's been a dream job. I'm so excited to continue as captain. I really could not have asked for a better team. I'm so proud of them. I can't wait to start tomorrow.
Q. Talk about this morning, the dolphins, the whales, is this the best draw ceremony ever?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think Bethanie has a story for everybody.
BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS: No, it's been a great draw ceremony. Tim, I know, helped set it up. It's been great. We got to say the Orca whales and everything before the Italian team and everyone got there, got up close and personal. The dolphins, got to pet them and everything. We were doing hand gestures to make them do tricks. We did one where you're supposed to turn around and scare them. I do it, and my wedding ring falls off in the pool (laughter). Thankfully the trainers got in and got it out and everything is okay. So it's going in my pocket next time (smiling).
Q. Coco, tomorrow how do you think it will feel inside?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: Like I said before, I'm here to represent my country. To be chosen is a great honor. Hopefully I'll be wearing my flag proud tomorrow and play to the best of my abilities and hopefully come out with a win.
Q. Is this the biggest match you've played in your career so far?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: I mean, we'll find out tomorrow. But definitely it's going to have some memorable moments for me. Hopefully it won't be my last Fed Cup tie I'll play in my short-lived career right now. It's definitely going to be a high-pressure situation. I have to talk to Mary Joe about how I'm feeling before I go out there. I mean, of course I'm going to be nervous. If I wasn't nervous, I would think there was something wrong.
I'm going to go out there and compete my hardest.
Q. Mary Joe, you played on a lot of teams. 10 years without a title for the most winning nation in Fed Cup history. It has to seem like forever at this point.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: It does seem like forever. That's why it's such a thrill to be in the final again, and this one being at home.
You're right, the U.S. was winning consistently for a long time there. It's been a long time. But I think the United States see on the women's side they're getting better and stronger. I think Melanie set the tone a year ago and has inspired a lot of the new and young women, the talents that are out there. We're going to see a lot of new breakthroughs next year. We said at the beginning of last year, this is the future, this is now. These are the players that we're going to see and representing their country.
Q. Coco, you're the local here. How many members of your extended family and friends are you expecting tomorrow?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: Yeah, that's the great thing about the tie being here in San Diego. I have my family members here. It's a home-court advantage for us. For it to be here in San Diego is pretty cool for me because I remember going and watching my first tie in La Jolla when Lindsay, I think Ashley, 2008. I watched that. I loved watching it. It was probably my first time going to actually sit and watch tennis in a Fed Cup situation.
Hopefully it will inspire other young Americans of any age to pick up a tennis racquet and to compete out there with the rest of the world.
Q. Mary Joe, so much is made of the format of Fed Cup, changing it, not changing it. When you get into a situation where you're playing at home, does this validate why Fed Cup is structured the way it is?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I was able to play under many different formats. This is definitely I think the best. I think especially when you travel, you notice the passion, what it means to these countries that don't see tennis that often. Here we see it all the time so I think it's a little bit different.
Obviously for purposes of players, playing in one week, it's easier, because you have so many commitments. So we did that for a long time.
It can always be improved. I'd have to say the third match being the doubles like it is in Davis Cup, obviously you have the No. 1 doubles player, we would like to see that match count no matter what. Hopefully we'll get there.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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