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Fed Cup 2016: USA taking on Poland in first round of World Group

Ingrid Lofdahl-Bentzer, International Tennis Federation representative, introduces players from Team USA and Team Poland at the draw ceremony Friday in Keauhou. Also attending the draw were Fed Cup referee Wayne McKewen and Katrina Adams, USTA chairman of the board, CEO and president. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Ingrid Lofdahl-Bentzer, International Tennis Federation representative, introduces players from Team USA and Team Poland at the draw ceremony Friday in Keauhou. Also attending the draw were Fed Cup referee Wayne McKewen and Katrina Adams, USTA chairman of the board, CEO and president. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

(Editor’s Note: The Tennis Channel will present live daily coverage, starting at 11 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday.)

Big time tennis comes to small town Hawaii this weekend as the United States takes on Poland in the first round of the 2016 Fed Cup.

The Fed Cup, dubbed the World Cup of women’s tennis, includes four singles matches and a doubles match to be played Saturday and Sunday at Keauhou’s Holua Tennis Center, which has added a grandstand for more than 1,000 spectators.

On Friday, International Tennis Federation representative Ingrid Lofdahl-Bentzer and USTA president Katrina Adams joined referee Wayne McKewen at the ceremonial draw.

Here’s the line-up:

Saturday starting at 11 a.m.

* Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Magda Linette (Poland)

* Venus Williams (USA) vs. Paula Kania (Poland)

Sunday starting at 10 a.m.

* Venus Williams (USA) vs. Magda Linette (Poland)

* Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Paula Kania (Poland)

* Bethanie Mattek-Sands / CoCo Vanderweghe (USA) vs. Klaudia Jans-Ignacik / Alicja Rosolska (Poland)

Stephens and Linette met for the first time in 2015, with Stephens running out to a 6-2 6-1 win in Washington D.C., a result the world No. 25 believes will stand her in good stead against the 23-year-old: “I played a solid match – it was the first round of the tournament, which is always tough.”

“I have nothing to lose this time,” said world No. 96 Linette, playing as Poland’s No. 1 for the first time. “I will try to do my best – I know her a bit better now, so I’ll be better prepared. I’m playing better now than the moment when I played her last year.”

World No. 12 Williams and No. 153 Kania also have met once before, with Williams notching a straight set victory in 2014.

“She played really well,” Williams said. “I remember having to play my best. When people play for their country, either they get really nervous or they play really well, so I need to be ready and hopefully Sloane can get us off to a good start.”

The winner of this round advances to the World Group Playoffs in April and will be competing for a slot in the 2017 World Group. The losing nation will play in the World Group II Playoffs in April to remain in World Group II in 2017.

The United States boasts a 3-0 record against Poland in Fed Cup. The U.S. ytgdid not lose a match when the two squads met in 1974, 1980 and most recently in 1990

Both teams are without their highest ranked players – No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska. The standouts are taking a break after the year’s first Grand Slam tournament in Australia.

However, Serena’s sister Venus is ranked 12th in the world with Stephens at No. 25 and Vandeweghe at No. 46. Mattek-Sands is a ranked No. 6 in doubles.

For Poland, Linette is No. 96 and Kania at No. 153. On the doubles side, Rosolska is No. 46 and team captain Jans-Ignacik is No. 50.

“You try never to let your guard down. We’ve been the underdogs and have won and been the favorites and lost,” Fernandez said. “You know you have to take that seriously, especially in team competition. Sometimes the lower-ranked player, that’s where they excel and play their best; sometimes a higher-ranked player doesn’t play as well under the competition of being on a team. So you really have to approach it very seriously and treat it like business as usual.”

Fed Cup is the world’s largest annual international team competition in women’s sport with approximately 100 nations taking part each year. The U.S. leads all nations with 17 Fed Cup titles, the last coming in 2000. Poland’s best finish was as quarterfinalist in 1992.

The U.S. is 37-6 in ties played at home and holds an overall 144-36 record.

Hawaii becomes the 16th state to host Fed Cup. Hawaii hosted Davis Cup, the men’s equivalent to Fed Cup, in Kohala Coast at the Mauna Lani Racquet Club in the 1992 World Group First Round, where the U.S. team of Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras swept Argentina, 5-0.

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Team USA (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Team USA (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Friday Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We will take questions for the U.S. Fed Cup team.

Q. For the players, why is it important for you to play on the Fed Cup team because most of the time you’re involved with individual efforts? How do you feel about the team approach?

COCO VANDEWEGHE: Well, I think it’s very important to represent your country in any sense of the word. So that is why I choose to play Fed Cup.

It’s a great honor and a privilege to be out there to represent your country. So that’s why I play.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I enjoy being on the team. Coco is very noble, but I have a really good time on the team. It’s just a fun time. You don’t usually get to do this in tennis. It’s a different experience that you don’t get to have when you grow up as a tennis player, and you’re always solo from beginning to the end. It’s a moment where it’s a break from that.

SLOANE STEPHENS: I think both of them answered the question already. It’s the greatest honor play for your country and be on a team when every week you’re by yourself. It makes it really fun. Of course, with girls you actually do like and enjoy being around makes it a good week and makes it a lot of fun.

BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS: Yeah, I think they hit on it all. It’s different than our normal routine. We’ve had a lot of fun this week. That’s pretty much it.

Q. What are some initial thoughts on the draw and the matchups?

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think everybody on both teams are used to playing first or second, so it doesn’t make that big of a difference.

But we know the other players. Some of them have played them already. We’re just excited to start. We’ve practiced a lot already and we’re ready to get going.

Q. As far as Fed Cup is concerned, why is it important in the world of tennis? I think that would be a Mary Joe question. What is the significance of it?

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think that goes with your first question. The fact that tennis is an individual sport, you’re able to come together as a team. It’s rare, but it’s unique. You take a lot of pride. It’s special. It means that much more when you win; it hurts that much more when you lose because it’s not just about you. I think that’s why it’s important.

I think it’s important to grow tennis in countries that don’t see it very often, in communities that don’t see it very often. It’s nice to be here playing Fed Cup for the first time and get new fans, hopefully encourage new children, new players to get involved in the game. This is one way of doing that.

Q. Have you had a chance to get a little ocean time in?

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Some of us have.

COCO VANDEWEGHE: I love the ocean. Anytime I can get out there, I can’t complain. I live in California. This water is way warmer than in California right now.

Friday Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the Polish team.

Q. How many of you have played in the Fed Cup prior?

MAGDA LINETTE: All of us.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about this venue, being quite different from the other reason views where you’ve played.

MAGDA LINETTE: I played before in Israel, in Eilat, which is also next to the sea. But it’s obviously not this beautiful. I’m really enjoying. I believe my team also.

We are very happy we can be here. We’re just enjoying and we try just to practice as good as we can on the tennis court, and then we just try to enjoy everything else out of the court. We really like it.

Q. What do you think of the matchups, keys to victories this weekend?

PAULA KANIA: It definitely is going to be a great atmosphere in the team. Yeah, we had a really good practice week. I hope this is going to work in this weekend.

But the key is, like I said before, just atmosphere, like playing your best tennis, just to give your best. Actually, I cannot say anything else. It’s always pretty much the same thing, so yeah.

Wednesday Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Team USA, please.

Q. How are doing enjoying Hawaii? Is it your first time here playing? And how is the preparation going for this week?

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: We love being in Hawaii. Like being in paradise. Absolutely beautiful. The weather has been perfect.

It is my third time in Hawaii, but it’s been — I think it’s been about 12 years since I’ve been here. It’s nice to be back. So far so good. We’re enjoying ourselves and the practices have been great. Really no complaints.

Q. To each of the players, beyond winning on Sunday, what are your goals for this week heading into this year basically? And is it any different at a place or an event that has a little different atmosphere than a normal tournament?

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think ultimately the goal to win. These what we’re here for. I think we try to stay in the present. We have a job at hand: trying to get the three wins as quickly as possible. After that, then we move on.

It’s nice to come together as a team. It doesn’t happen very often, so it’s nice to work together and have that common goal as a team. So after this one, the next one will be in April, and then that’ll be our next goal.

SLOANE STEPHENS: We’re excited to try and get back in World Group I and win this tie this week, and excited to be in Hawaii. I would say this is our best tie yet. We have a lot of the motivation to do well here, so we can come back here obviously. (Laughter.)

BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS: Yeah, I think we’ll try and make Hawaii our lucky spot.

Q. This is not so much a question. I am going to break press protocol and probably get kicked out of here right away. I would like to say to Venus Williams, what a great thing to have you here, and just a big, big thank you for everything that you’ve done for tennis through the years. Great tennis ambassador, and I think it’s a great treat, especially for the local kids this afternoon who get to come out. Thank you, thank you for being here. Can’t tell you how exciting it is. CoCo Vandeweghe, what a great Australian Open. Mixed doubles final. I think very cool. To the rest of you, what I would liked to, since I am breaking press protocol, what is the question you most hate the media to ask you?

BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS: I think there is just a lot of repetitive questions asked. I’m still surprised people don’t know that I wear knee high socks for compression. I feel like I’ve answered that in every single interview I’ve given for the last four years, and still people are still surprised that I don’t just wear them for fashionable reason. They’re actually for compression purposes.

SLOANE STEPHENS: I think the most annoying question has to be what is the state of U.S. women’s tennis. That’s all. That’s like in every press conference, every interview.

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I get that one a lot, too. Same topic. You get the same answer because everybody is working hard, everybody is trying, and everybody is trying to make that next move.

You’re right. We get that all the time.

VENUS WILLIAMS: What’s it like playing your sister? It’s like 20 years later. Haven’t you seen us play? What do you think? Kind of draw your own conclusion at this point.

COCO VANDEWEGHE: I would agree, definitely what’s the state of American tennis, but also, especially after a loss, why did you lose?

BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS: Yeah, or how do you feel after you lose?

COCO VANDEWEGHE: Oh, I feel wonderful. Peachy. Great. Can’t wait to get to the hotel room.

Q. Speaking of having lost, did you see the Australian Open trophy presentation? Curious, what was your reaction to that? It was touching, I thought. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, Serena’s reaction and obviously Angelique’s reaction to winning finally. Wondered if a couple of you can comment on that?

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I was there courtside, so it was great to see. That’s what sports is about, sportsmanship. Serena handled it beautifully. She was a class act and gave the congratulations that were due. Angelique played a tremendous match, and I thought she was very humble in her victory. I thought she handled it really well, too.

I think it was a great example of what sports is at the end of the day. Win or lose, you still treat each other well.

Q. Anybody else have any reaction?

COCO VANDEWEGHE: I was asleep. It was past my bedtime and I had to play the next day. I didn’t see it until afterwards. It was like a delayed effect. It wasn’t in the moment when I saw it. It was very gracious.

I’ve never been in that situation, so I don’t know how the mixed emotions are, but you try and handle it the best you can.

Q. What do you guys think the importance of having an event like the Fed Cup in a small community like Kona is for the sport in general?

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think it’s wonderful. Tennis is a global sport and we get to go to many wonderful cities, but it’s nice when you get to participate and play in front of communities that don’t see tennis.

This is one of them. We’ve been wanting to come here for a while, so it’s nice to finally be here. From what I hear we’re going to have a great turnout. It’s nice for tennis fans to get to see professional tennis and these great champions on the same team.

Q. Assuming you’re going to be treated to a luau. If that’s the case and there is a hula competition, which one of you would win?

COCO VANDEWEGHE: I would say Sloane. (Laughter.)

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Who’s got better hip action?

SLOANE STEPHENS: I have no rhythm, so it’s probably not going to be me.

BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS: I feel like CoCo would make us laugh the hardest. (Laughter.)

COCO VANDEWEGHE: That’s definitely a fact.

Q. When you come in and you’re facing a team that I think you’re the high odds to win, is that easier or harder? Do you let your guard down? Just get business down?

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: No. You try never to let your guard down. We have been on both ends. We’ve been the underdogs and have won and been the favorites and lost. You know you have to take that seriously, especially team competition.

You don’t really know sometimes what to expect. Sometimes the lower-ranked player, that’s where they excel and play their best; sometimes a higher-ranked player doesn’t play as well under the competition of being on a team.

So you really have to approach it very seriously and treat it like business as usual.

Q. So you guys are going to be doing a community clinic after this. What does it mean to give back to the local community and teach the kids the game of tennis?

CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think, like we said before, just being in a lace where tennis doesn’t come very often and they don’t get to see us, it’s pretty special to have the youth come out and try to encourage them to get involved and start playing tennis of.

Participation is so important, and it starts with the young ones. We always have fun whenever we’re able to do this I heard we are having a good turn out as well, so it’ll be a good time out there with all the children.

Wednesday Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the Polish team, please.

Q. Easy one to start you off. Is this your first time in Hawaii, and what are your impressions and how is your preparation going as you’re kind of getting closer to the weekend? Anybody can answer.

PAULA KANIA: All right, so I’ll start. Yeah, it’s actually our first time for all of us. Yeah, yeah, we really enjoying the time here. The weather is beautiful. Completely different than Poland. It’s a really nice place. It’s a really good place for Fed Cup.

KLAUDIA JANS-IGNACIK: I think we should play always Fed Cup just on the islands. That would be the best. (Laughter.)

Q. When you’re out there playing Fed Cup, does it feel dramatically different than playing at a regular tournament, the atmosphere or the way that your goals are set?

PAULA KANIA: Of course, because on a tournament usually we play under our own name, so it’s really amazing to play for your own country.

It’s like in the tough moments you always have your team that is behind your back and you can always look up to them and they give you like extra energy.

I think this is the first thing that really helps you on the court, and I really like it. Usually you feel like really alone sometimes on the court, but here you have like really friends and we have amazing team.

I think we all enjoy it a lot. I think the second thing is that we have always people that cheer for you. Maybe not here we don’t have so many, but if you play in your home country the Fed Cup I think it’s also amazing feeling that you play for your own country and they come there to support you.

So it’s really great.

Q. Any of you watch the trophy presentation after the women’s singles at the Australian Open? Different than most trophy presentations. Just the reaction of the two players I think is what I’m talking about.

KLAUDIA JANS-IGNACIK: Yeah, you are saying about Serena and Angie, how Serena was acting? Yeah, that was amazing. Like Serena gave respect to Angelique for her first Grand Slam final and winning.

Everyone was surprised, but this picture I think we want to see on more finals and more tournaments.

The respect in our days, I think it’s a wars with a great meaning.

Q. What are your goals for this weekend? Beyond winning, what goals do you have as a team? I won’t make everybody answer individually, but just thinking it’s something beyond what it usually is.

ALICJA ROSOLSKA: Actually, we have a new team, new coach, and I feel like we are really good team. We support each other. We practice really good.

So our goal is to keep this all the time up to support each other, and of course during the weekend step on court and beat the opponent. So our goal is just to come here, have a great time, but win the matches.

PAULA KANIA: Yeah, the goal is to keep the great atmosphere in the team. Well, yeah, we try to, you know, play our best tennis and perform as best we can, you know, for people. We hope they going to enjoy it.

We definitely came here not just to play, but to win. So, yeah. (Laughter.) I hope going to work.

KLAUDIA JANS-IGNACIK: I think that we don’t need to add anything. Girls said already anything. I’m happy that they are here with me, and we will be fighting until the last point on Saturday and Sunday.

Q. When you were growing up, was the Fed Cup something you aspired and hoped to be on the Fed Cup team at one time?

MAGDA LINETTE: Of course it’s a huge honor. When we play on a bit lower schedule we look up to better players like Agnieszka and Ula. Especially I think me and Paula, we are a bit younger, so it’s dream come actually true to be part of the right team and fighting.

There no better like team competition than this one, so I think we’re just honored we can be here and we’ll just do our best and play as good a we can.

That’s it.

Team captain Mary Joe Fernandez gives a pep talk before nearly 80 young  players were treated to a hitting session with members of Team USA. Dozens of players from little tykes to high school stars were invited to line up against the pros and get a few playing tips, followed by an opportunity for photos and capped with a pizza party. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Team captain Mary Joe Fernandez gives a pep talk before nearly 80 young players were treated to a hitting session with members of Team USA. Dozens of players from little tykes to high school stars were invited to line up against the pros and get a few playing tips, followed by an opportunity for photos and capped with a pizza party. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

FOUR STANDOUT JUNIORS PARTICIPATE IN FED CUP CAMP

The USTA has announced that four top junior players are taking part in USTA Player Development’s Fed Cup camp, which is held alongside the United States’ Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II First Round tie vs. Poland.

Usue Arconada (age 17; College Park, Md.), Kayla Day (age 16; Santa Barbara, Calif.), Caroline Dolehide (age 17; Hinsdale, Ill.), and Claire Liu (age 15; Thousand Oaks, Calif.) are all participating in the camp, an opportunity traditionally held in conjunction with Fed Cup ties in the U.S.

The camp is an opportunity for some of America’s top young players to train with one another, as well as practice and interact with the U.S. Fed Cup Team of Captain Mary Joe Fernandez, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, CoCo Vandeweghe, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. USTA National Coach Kathy Rinaldi and guest coach Marianne Werdel are running the camp.

Liu began 2016 ranked in the Top 25 of the world junior rankings (23). Last March, at 14 years, 9 months, and 25 days old, Liu became the youngest female player to win a USTA Pro Circuit tournament since Anna Kournikova in 1996, when she won the $10,000 event in Orlando. As a junior player, Liu advanced to the third round of junior Wimbledon in 2015 and has also competed in the junior US Open. She also won the 2015 Easter Bowl, a prestigious junior tournament. In addition, Liu helped the U.S. to a runner-up finish to the Czech Republic at the 16-and-under Junior Fed Cup finals in Barcelona in September 2015, going 4-1 in singles matches.

Arconada is currently ranked No. 8 in the world junior rankings. Arconada won her first pro-level match at 14 years old, in qualifying for the WTA’s Citi Open in Washington, D.C., beating then 26-year old Maria Irigoyen. She reached the third round in singles at the 2015 junior US Open, as well as the doubles quarterfinals. She has also competed in the junior French Open and Wimbledon, reaching the doubles semifinals at the French Open in 2015 and at Wimbledon in 2014. Arconada was born in Argentina and her family moved to Puerto Rico when her father accepted a position as Puerto Rico’s national volleyball coach.

Day is the No. 10-ranked junior in the world. Like Liu, she also helped the U.S. to a runner-up finish at the 16-and-under Junior Fed Cup finals in Barcelona in late September, winning all four of her singles matches. She won two prestigious ITF junior events last year in Mexico and Tulsa, Okla., and has also competed in the junior US Open and Wimbledon. Day was the 2013 USTA Girls’ 14s national champion and the 2014 USTA Girls’ 16s national runner-up.

Dolehide was the No. 16-ranked junior in the world last July. She reached the third round of junior singles at Wimbledon and the junior doubles final at Roland Garros in 2015. She also advanced to the junior singles semifinals at the 2014 US Open despite being ranked well outside the Top 500 of the world junior rankings. Dolehide’s older sister, Courtney, played collegiate tennis at UCLA and is now an assistant coach at the University of Texas. Her cousin, Tom Gorzelanny, is an 11-year veteran MLB pitcher, now with the Cleveland Indians organization.

— Find out more:
www.fedcup.com

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

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