When the United States takes on Belarus in this weekend’s Fed Cup final, world No. 10 CoCo Vandeweghe, US Open champion Sloane Stephens, Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske will play for their country on the court. And it will be captain Kathy Rinaldi trying to lead this team to the international tennis promised land.
The United States has not won a Fed Cup since 2000, when it defeated Spain 5-0 under then-captain Billie Jean King. That was the 17th Fed Cup victory for the U.S., so a subsequent 17-year drought was certainly unexpected..
Another drought that is quite shocking is the fact that Billie Jean King is the last female captain to lead a Fed Cup team to a title. It’s something that Rinaldi is well aware of and she is certainly embracing the challenge of changing that.
“It would mean a lot obviously for these girls to win this and to be the next female coach since Billie it would be an honor,” Rinaldi said at a press conference in Minsk on Wednesday.
She has even turned to King for some advice.
“I reached out to Billie. She's been extremely supportive over the years, not just with Fed Cup but with coaching and as a player. I have tremendous respect for her and being a female captain and winning it I really wanted to pick her brain and just have a good chat with her. She's been great.”
Despite being on the road, Rinaldi’s group will be a favorite in the matchup with Belarus this weekend, with Victoria Azarenka unable to play. Still, the partisan crowd and Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Vera Lapko, Olga Govortsova and Aryna Sabalenka will challenge the Americans.,
But nerves shouldn’t be a factor when the players step on the court. Rinaldi has focused on keeping things loose and fun, which should have a positive effect on the players this late in the season.
“We do have a lot of fun,” said Rinaldi. “It's the end of the year. I think everybody is exhausted. They've had a lot of tennis. With that being said I know this group of players. They thrive and they love playing for their country so they're going to leave it all on the court.”