CoCo Vandeweghe Leads the U.S. Team in the Fed Cup Final

CoCo Vandeweghe Leads the U.S. Team in the Fed Cup Final


Vandeweghe was speaking from Minsk, Belarus, where she and her American teammates Sloane Stephens, Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske will take on the Belarusians in the final of the Fed Cup this weekend. It is the first Fed Cup final for the United States since a loss to Italy in 2010.

The United States has 17 titles, more than any other team, since the competition began in 1963, but has not won the Fed Cup since Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and Lisa Raymond beat Spain in 2000, when Vandeweghe was 8.

The Americans, who toppled the three-time defending champion Czech Republic, 3-2, in the semifinals, are heavily favored against a Belarusian team that has no player ranked in the top 75. With the two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka home in California and unable to travel because of a custody battle over her 11-month-old son, Belarus is counting on No. 78 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 87 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Sabalenka, 19, has had an admirable autumn, reaching the semifinals in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in September and then losing to Maria Sharapova in the final of the Tianjin Open last month. Sasnovich has not lost a match in the Fed Cup this year, leading Belarus to upset victories over the Netherlands and Switzerland en route to the final. Sabalenka and Sasnovich are from Minsk and the team is playing its third consecutive tie in what will be a full and highly partisan arena.

“Believe me, we are not underestimating this team,” said the first-year American Fed Cup captain Kathy Rinaldi, who, along with coach Lisa Raymond, prepared the squad for deafening, boisterous fan behavior. “These girls are extremely talented and moving up the rankings quickly. And they’re fearless.”

Photo

Sloane Stephens, left, practicing with her Fed Cup teammate Alison Riske in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday. Stephens has not won a match since claiming the U.S. Open title in September.

Credit
Sergei Grits/Associated PressSlo

The task of choosing a team did not fall easily on Rinaldi’s shoulders. Serena Williams is on maternity leave; Venus Williams opted not to play Fed Cup this year, and Stephens and Madison Keys were injured earlier this season. So Rinaldi relied on Vandeweghe, Riske, Rogers, Lauren Davis and Bethanie Mattek-Sands to get past Germany and the Czech Republic.

Citing continuing wrist problems, Keys withdrew from all tournaments after she reached the United States Open final. Mattek-Sands, who won the deciding doubles match over the Czechs with Vandeweghe in April, is still recovering from a ruptured patella tendon sustained at Wimbledon in July. She had planned to cheer on the team in Belarus but recently had varicose vein surgery that prevented her from flying.

“I still feel very much a part of this team,” Mattek-Sands said from her home in Scottsdale, Ariz. “I’ll be cheering wildly from here.”

Stephens, the surprise winner of the United States Open in September, is making her first Fed Cup appearance of the year after missing 11 months from August 2016 to this June because of surgery on her left foot. But she has not won a match since she defeated Keys in the U.S. Open final.

Stephens, who has played three tournaments since the Open, said her life “isn’t really much different” since she claimed her first Grand Slam title.

“I haven’t purchased anything, I haven’t gone anywhere,” she added. “Nothing in my life has changed. I still look the same.”

Her ranking at least has changed, rising from No. 83 at the Open to No. 13. Vandeweghe began the season at No. 37 and ended it in the top 10 for the first time. Despite losing her first match in eight of 18 tournaments she played this year, the notoriously feisty Vandeweghe reached the semifinals at the Australian Open, beating top-seeded Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza, and at the U.S. Open, where she upset then-No. 1 Karolina Pliskova. Vandeweghe also advanced to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

“CoCo has really stepped it up this year,” Rinaldi said. “She’s more consistent and she’s learning more about the patterns of her game. She’s got a big personality and she’s passionate about her tennis. She lives for team moments like this.”

Raymond also credited Rinaldi with uniting the young women by providing energy, enthusiasm and bonding experiences like game nights and trips to play laser tag and Escape the Room.

Vandeweghe and Stephens, however, admitted to being weary from a long WTA Tour season.

“The fall has been really difficult for me,” Vandeweghe said. “It’s been very hard to find any motivation after the U.S. Open because it’s such a big tournament for the American players.”

This weekend, however, she needs no more motivation than bringing the Fed Cup home.



Source link

About The Author

The Downtown Dallas News Team actively source local, national, and international news.

Related posts

Leave a Reply