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November 7, 2010

Mary Joe Fernandez

Coco Vandeweghe


F. PENNETTA/C. Vandeweghe
6-1, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Mary Joe, you jokingly said yesterday you needed advice about giving a pep talk. What did you say to Melanie before today?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: You don't need to say much to Melanie to get her fired up. She draws on these moments. This is really like when she plays her best. She's a clutch, pressure player.
She played a fantastic match, so solid. Couldn't have played any better. So I was so proud of her. She really went out there with a plan and stuck to it, had the belief that she could do it.

Q. Can you reflect on not just the matches today and yesterday, but the whole week, what you've seen from your team, what you're trying to instill in your Fed Cup teams for the future.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Sure. It was another fantastic week of Fed Cup for us. I love these weeks. They're a lot of fun. I think I learn more about each player every time. We become closer every time.
Coco has been on teams before, this time in the lineup. Fit right in with everybody else. Everybody on this team is a team player. They're all out there to give it their all. It's what Fed Cup's about.
It's such a unique experience. It's so nice to be able to - seems like it goes fast - part of a long week, to be able to work on the tennis, work on philosophies, especially what the young generation needs to do to get to the next step. We're seeing it. We're seeing the future right now in Coco, Melanie, Bethanie doing so well this last season.
It's been another fantastic week.

Q. Coco, obviously this is a real difficult weekend for you in terms of what happened on the court. Could you describe what your mindset was going into the match this afternoon and then the disappointment that you obviously must feel right now.
COCO VANDEWEGHE: Yes, I'm very disappointed in myself and the way that it turned out. But I tried my best out there, fought as hard as I could (tearing up).
My mindset going in was just, you know, it's a tough situation I'm going into, but I'm going to play as hard as I can, play the way I know how to play, do the best I can out there.

Q. Coco, a young woman who played her heart out for her country. What did you tell her about today and her future?
I'm very proud of Coco, number one. She competed so well both days. The most important thing for me is she did the right things. She was trying to focus on trying to make the best plays possible. She gave herself chances here and there. She played a world-class opponent that came up with good shots at the right time.
It's the next step of winning those big points, developing as a player. So for Coco, as it is for everybody else, the greatest thing about our sport is we have tomorrow. We have another tournament next week. It's about getting better the next time.
Even though the score didn't reflect it, I thought Coco played better today than she did yesterday, especially on returns. She was able to make the opponent play a lot more.
As long as she can build each and every day, keep working hard. I've been so impressed this week with Coco because she leaves it all out there on the practice court. Anything I've asked, she's willing to do. That's all you can ask for in a young player.

Q. Mary Joe, I'm sure it's hard to reassess or look back. If you could do things differently, anything differently, might you have played Melanie yesterday?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, I don't think so. I mean, I'm a big believer everything happens for a reason. I wasn't planning on playing Melanie first up today. I was hoping that Bethanie was going to be the one to start, then Melanie would have played Pennetta.
But things happen. Bethanie cramped up yesterday in the second set. She has a sinus infection. I didn't want to take the risk of her not being a hundred percent. She felt better today. She felt like she could go out there. Again, my gut told me I got someone who has fresh legs, someone who competes well, loves the pressure, let's go with that. We had to change it up. We had to adapt. We got ourselves back in there. We were right back in there.
Then Coco backed it up. It's tough to say. She's up 1-Love, 40-Love. The starts of these matches are really important I think to establish yourself. I think if Coco could have got a good start, things could have been a little tighter.
Again, we're playing against a player who is so solid, moves so well. You have to play your best tennis. It's tough.

Q. There's some discussion that maybe Vania might have been asked.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: No. Never was asked.

Q. Coco, obviously you have enough game. You beat Vera in August. You had good wins in the fall. When you were out there today, is a lot of it nerves?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: No, when I came up, I was pumped up, ready to go. I started out with a break, 40-Love up. I felt like I was more sure of myself today, nerves-wise more calm in my shoes today than I was yesterday.
But, you know, Flavia has been in this position a couple of times. This is my first go-around, hopefully not my last. You know, hopefully I can do better next time when I'm put in this position to kind of make this to go to a deciding rubber.

Q. Coco, is it more emotional losing when you're on a team than when it's just yourself? How is it different?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: It's totally different. You know, sometimes you get emotional when you're by yourself on the tour, when you lose a tough-fought match. But, you know, it's definitely emotional right now losing for my country and for my teammates, people that kind of counted on me to pull out a win.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: She did great. You know what, this is what you like to see. I reminded Coco last year when Melanie lost both matches in Italy, she was so upset as well. As tough as it is, you want to see the players care, that desire.
It is a different feeling when you play for your country. When you win it means that much more, when you lose it hurts that much more. This is the first time for Coco to see what it's like, but she'll see the flipside of it as well.

Q. You began the year ranked 322. You're ranked 114 right now. Is it difficult right for you to pull back a little bit and say, Wait, in the big picture, this is a fantastic year?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: Yeah, right now I'm kind of just focusing on what just happened. But, you know, Mary Joe said to me afterwards, you know, this is the great thing about our sport, we've got tomorrow, the next match, the next day. Like I have to go to Phoenix pretty much tomorrow to go play to try to make it into the main draw of Australia.
I kind of got to shake this off and build from this, compete next week.

Q. Speaking of next, you'll have a really first tough first round, a lot tougher than the last two years if both Kim and Justine play. When do you start thinking about that?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Not yet (laughter).

Q. Talk about the different dynamics on that.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: We have a little ways to go. I usually start looking at how everybody is playing at the beginning of the season, the first few weeks right before the Australian Open. I even go into the first week of the Australian Open, whoever is playing well, their best, that's who we go with.
Yes, they're a stacked team. We got a tough first round. It's away, so it makes it harder. Again, it's part of the challenge. We've had a lot of challenges. It will be one more.

Q. You came in as underdogs on paper. Did you come in feeling like everything had to break your way to win this tie?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think we all knew we had to play our very, very best to have a chance to win this tie. I mean, we're playing against a very, very solid team with a lot of experience, a lot of variety, and a lot of confidence. So we definitely knew we had to put matches together that were pretty close to perfect.
Melanie did that today. It's not an easy thing to do. Bethanie had her chances yesterday. Unfortunately, couldn't win that first set, then had some struggles with her cramps.
But you know that going into it. Having said that, you go in thinking you can do it. It's one match at a time. Obviously, like you saw today, upsets happen.

Q. With the Williams sisters either not committing or being unable to play, you've really done this with a different group of players. Even though you've been to the finals twice, do you see this as rebuilding a program right now?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Well, I think I just said on the Tennis Channel, Venus and Serena are at the end of their careers. One is 30, one is 29. Hopefully they're going to play for a little bit longer. But this is the next generation. I mean, this is who's going to be playing the next 5, 10 years.
So it has been a rebuilding and focusing on the new development of these young players. There's a lot more coming, as well. I think I mentioned that the other day. Melanie kicked it off last year breaking through. But she's inspired players like Coco, Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens, Ally Riske. There's a lot of players making that next breakthrough.
I'm hoping to have at least 10 of these new players in the top hundred next year and possibly some more in the top 50. We got to get to that next level of top 50 players. All the Italians were in the top 50. That's our next push. I think we can do it.
I think fitness is the key. I think we need to get our players as fit as possible, then you can have the base to last and win matches. That's the next goal, to get more players in the top hundred and then top 50.

Q. Do you know what the rule is, that the Williams would have to play Fed Cup in 2011 to be Olympic eligible?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think they have to play twice before the Olympics to be eligible.
THE MODERATOR: They have to make themselves available two of the four years before the Olympics, one of which must be the year of the Olympics or the year before. If they haven't fulfilled their requirements in '09 and '10, they'd have to make themselves available '11 and '12.

Q. Will you aggressively go and seek their participation against the Belgians?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I seek their participation every tie. It won't change (smiling).

Q. You were talking about the new generation. We have all these good young players. You reached the final two years without them. Why?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Our goal is still to win. So to win you need your best players. They're our best players. I actually think they would do a lot of good for the younger generation to be around them. In our ideal setup, you have them and the young ones together. Hopefully it's an inspiration. They see their work ethic, what it takes to get to that level.
I think that combination is fantastic. But in my book, I'm always going to ask the best players to play. They're the best out there. Having said that, we've had a fantastic two years without them.

Q. You are an incredibly animated coach. You can see even up until the last changeover, you're still coaching Coco instead of sitting still. What are you saying to her at that late stage of a match?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think I'm just reminding the players on the court little things: what they really have to focus on. I try to pick two or three things depending on the occasion. For Melanie, it was for her to stay aggressive. She tends to get tentative when she's about to close out a match. Those little reminders.
Coco was doing a better job of getting up to the ball, not waiting for the ball. Keep working on things like that. Just a couple reminders.

Q. You're a keen observer of the women's game. Looking forward to 2011, how do you see women's tennis? Do you see breakthrough players or a lock at the top?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I've been talking to the players a lot this week about the how game always changes. You're seeing the top of the game players like Wozniacki, Zvonareva. They're not the big, big hitters. They're not the ones that are going to blow you off the court. There's something to be said about having that base, solid game, playing high-percentage tennis. That to me is really important. I think sometimes we get trapped into the mentality that because Serena is No. 1, hits huge serves, everybody has to playing like that. You have to obviously play to your strengths but learn from who is doing well at the moment.
I think that trend is going to continue. I think we're going to see a lot of solid, smart tennis going forward. It's not going to be just about big power.

Q. Melanie talked earlier about having a tough year, had heard the sophomore year is tough. How much do you think a big match like today could give her a boost going into next season?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think it can help a lot. Every time Melanie plays well at Fed Cup, she turns around and continues that pattern for a while. This was a tough season for her. It's hard, expectation all of a sudden is on you, everybody's got the target on your back. Now she's a good win for everybody. It takes a little adjustment. She told me, Everybody said it, but I didn't realize it till it happened to me.
I think she's glad the year's finished, so now hopefully she can build from this. What a way to finish, beating the French Open champion going into 2011.

Q. Coco, after you won that first game and got up, what changed? It seemed like the match almost went too fast for you. Was it what she did, the occasion?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: I didn't think it went too fast at all. You know, I had chances in a lot of my service games where she broke back. I was just kind of on the losing end a lot on the longer rallies. Being 40-Love up, she got more comfortable in the match. It's only the second game. So I had to be, you know, a little bit more solid, close out that game at love, 15, not give her second chances like it seemed to keep happening. Deuce, ad, deuce, ad. That game had a bunch.
COCO VANDEWEGHE: It felt like forever.

Q. 16 minutes, the first two games.
COCO VANDEWEGHE: Yeah, so, I mean, I've talked about this before, you know. Just finishing out those games at love, not giving those top players second chances, because they will take those second chances and capitalize on them.

Q. Can you talk about how special it was that Billie Jean was here. Melanie said before the match she told her to go for it, she could hear her cheering. What did she say to you?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Oh, my gosh, it was great. I was so excited when I talked to Billie a few weeks ago. I talk to Billie almost every day during Fed Cup weeks. She always gives great advice. I brought her in to see all the girls right before. You just look at Billie, you get inspired. She has so much passion, so much drive.
First Fed Cup, she said, 1963, we were down four match points, she told everybody, It's never too late to come back. Even though it's never been done, let's make this the first.
She was very positive as usual. I think it was good. I think everybody enjoyed having her in the locker room.

Q. Mary Joe, obviously you've reached out to the Williams sisters, done all that you can to try to get them to play. How do you reach out to them? Is it simply email contact? Do you visit them personally? Phone calls?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I usually call them, talk to them on the phone, or I see them when I'm at a tournament, meet with them there.

Q. Is your anticipation that 2011, being the year before the Olympics, that they will play at some point next year?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I have no idea. We'll see. I haven't talked to them about next year yet.

Q. Coco, these weeks of team play are always pretty amazing. There's practice, team bonding, working with the captain, then you're on court in two tough matches. Not now necessarily, but in a few weeks when you have a chance to reflect on this experience, what do you think your thoughts will be?
COCO VANDEWEGHE: I mean, this has been just an unbelievable experience. I don't think I could ever summarize this experience in a few words or anything like that.
Just from the little things in the practice to the big occasions in the match, memories that I won't forget, feelings that I won't forget. Even though I was on the losing end, that's a feeling I'll never forget. Those are the feelings that you want to never feel again. I hope I never feel that again next time I'm put in that situation.

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