Fernandez coaching from the sidelines.
© Susan Mullane
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
Under Captain Mary Joe Fernandez, the U.S. Fed Cup Team has had its most successful consecutive years since its title-winning seasons of 1999 and 2000.
In her first two years as captain, Fernandez has guided the team to the Fed Cup Final in back-to-back years for the first time since those title wins. The U.S. fell to Italy away on outdoor clay last year in the final and this year is hoping to bring home the first Fed Cup title since 2000 against the same Italian team, although this year the final will be contested in San Diego on an indoor hardcourt.
Because of Fernandez’s tremendous success at the helm of the team, the USTA President and Chairman of the Board Lucy S. Garvin announced Thursday at the 2010 US Open that Fernandez’s contract as Fed Cup Captain has been extended through the 2012 season.
"For the first time in ten years, the U.S. has reached the finals of the Fed Cup in two consecutive years," Garvin said. "We are incredibly proud of Mary Joe Fernandez and what she has accomplished as the captain of the Fed Cup. She has the respect and the admiration of her team as well as the USTA. And I am very pleased to announce that the USTA is extending Mary Joe’s contract for 2011 and 2012. We are delighted that she is staying on board with us."
Fernandez, of course, was thrilled to accept the position and from her own playing career, her best memories are of when she played on a team, including Maureen Connolly Cup, Olympics and of course Fed Cup, where Billie Jean King was her captain. With her own teams, she has been extremely pleased with the players’ camaraderie and the support they give one another.
"It is been a fantastic two years, I am so honored to be back as part of Fed Cup," Fernandez said. "My biggest mentor when I was playing was Billie Jean King. And even when I was playing, she talked to me and said ‘You have to be the captain one year, you are good and you are good with the players and you help me out’ and slowly molded me into really believing that this was something that was going to be up my alley.
"I have had the best time with the girls, with the team. The USTA and the staff are first class and they make it very enjoyable for me," she added. "It has been the best experience; I am so looking forward to the final this year. I think it has been a great effort by all the players from last year and this year."
Fernandez has named a team of Serena and Venus Williams, Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Liezel Huber for the final against Italy, to be played November 6-7 at the San Diego Sports Arena. They will face an Italian team of Francesca Schaivone, Flavia Pennetta, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.
Oudin, Mattek-Sands and Huber have been the core of the U.S. team this year, having been on the team for its quarterfinal victory over France and semifinal win over Russia.
The home crowd helped lift the U.S. to its come-from-behind victory over the Russian team in the semifinals in Birmingham, Ala., including when Mattek-Sands won the pivotal fourth singles rubber to keep the U.S. and push the tie to the deciding doubles match, where Mattek-Sands and Huber were victorious to put the U.S. in the final.
Fernandez is looking forward to have that great support again.
"It makes a big difference. It was so nice in Birmingham to have that homecourt advantage against Russia," Fernandez said." Just to know they are behind you every point. When you play Fed Cup or Davis Cup, every point is a big point from the every first one. You win the first point, the crowd gets right into it and gets behind you. I think it lifts the spirits, it lifts the mood and it just gives you that belief no matter what that you can do it. We are so excited that we are playing the final at home."