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Pro Media & News

'Excited' Team USA ready to

Play Billie Jean King Cup Finals

Victoria Chiesa  |  October 31, 2021
<h1>'Excited' Team USA ready to</h1>
<h2>Play Billie Jean King Cup Finals</h2>
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It's been all treats and no tricks for Team USA so far at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Prague according to captain Kathy Rinaldi and the 2021 Finals squad of Danielle Collins, Caroline Dolehide, Shelby Rogers, Sloane Stephens and CoCo Vandeweghe.

 

Meeting the media on the eve of competition Sunday, also Halloween, the group revealed how they've been passing the time since they arrived in Prague—hint: many pumpkins were carved—and their collective expectations as one of the title favorites in this year's competition. 

 

"I couldn't be happier with the way our week and our preparations have been going. We've had great practices, great camaraderie," Rinaldi said. "These girls are amazing teammates and they're all great players. We're excited. We're ready to go. We got here with plenty of time to get over the jetlag. ADVERTISEMENT It's been a long year and it's been a long couple of years for these young ladies, so to have that time together and being prepared to play well, they're ready to go."

 

Read more: Captain Kathy Rinaldi previews the 2021 Billie Jean King Cup Finals

 

After another practice day on Monday, Team USA begins its round-robin campaign in Group C against Slovakia on Tuesday, its first action in the competition in 21 months, before playing Spain on Wednesday. Team USA qualified for the Billie Jean King Cup (formerly Fed Cup) Finals by winning a 3-2 qualifier against Latvia in Everett, Wash. in February of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the competition for the better part of two years, including the debut of its new name and format.

 

"It's amazing to be able to come together with a group of girls and play on a team. I haven't played a Billie Jean King Cup in a while and with COVID last year, we didn't get to see each other a lot, so now being able to be here and play together and finish off the year strong together is really important," Stephens said.

 

"We always come together well, always play well as a team and always have a really strong team and a strong captain. It meshes when we come together and we always look forward to it."

 

In the four-group, round robin format, the top four teams advance to the semifinals for the opportunity to play for the Billie Jean King Cup trophy. Team USA has won a record 18 titles in the competition dating back to its inception in 1963, and three of this year's Finals team members—Rogers, Stephens and Vandeweghe—led the team to its last title in 2017. In addition, Collins arrives on the team as U.S. No. 1 ranked world No. 30, while Dolehide is making her Billie Jean King Cup debut at a WTA doubles ranking of No. 28.

 

"The last time I played Billie Jean King Cup [in] 2018, we were still riding high from our win in 2017. Coming back and playing again after being out of the game for almost two years, it's nice to be back playing Billie Jean King Cup. I always enjoy playing for our country and it's nice to share those memories," Vandeweghe, who has had an injury-plagued three-plus years since reaching the Top 10 in 2017, said. 

 

"Danielle has had success out here and it's nice to see a fresh face [in Dolehide] enjoying Billie Jean King Cup as much as I know I love Billie Jean King Cup. It's just really enjoyable to play for your country and I think everyone here can can attest to that."

 

"I started as a junior hitting partner and hitting partner, so to see the team just have so much success is really great," Dolehide added. "As somebody who's now on the team, to get to know these girls better has been great and really fun so far. We're really looking forward to it and I see a lot of success in this team going forward, too."

 

Rogers was the latest addition to the team last week when Jessica Pegula was forced to withdraw from the competition as a result of a close contact COVID-19 case., but hasn't missed a beat as she prepares for her first action representing the red, white and blue since she and Vandeweghe won the clinching doubles rubber to beat Belarus in the aforementioned final in Minsk four years ago. 

 

"Kathy called me and informed me of the situation, and I was absolutely thrilled to come join Team USA," Rogers said. "I have some really fond memories of the last time I competed with this team. I'm looking to replicate that for sure, and it's been the best decision I've made. We've had so much fun and are just looking forward to competing.

 

"It was a quick development, but we made it work. My team was super supportive and I just love competing with these girls... so I'm happy to be back."

 

Tennis Channel and its streaming service Tennis Channel Plus will be the official broadcast home for the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in the U.S., with coverage windows beginning each morning live from Prague at 5:30 a.m. EST. Both of Team USA's Group C ties will be played on Centre Court and not before 5 p.m. local time. A full schedule, results and competition information is available from the International Tennis Federation at billiejeankingcup.com.

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