READY TO SECURE FED CUP CROWN
Ashley Marshall | November 8, 2017
MINSK, Belarus – Coco Vandeweghe was just 18 years old when she made her Fed Cup debut against Italy in the 2010 final.
In joining Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber, Vandeweghe became the first player since Chanda Rubin 15 years earlier to make her debut in the championship match.
Now 25 years old, Vandeweghe has no problem admitting she was overmatched at San Diego Sports Arena, located just a 30-minute drive south down I-5 from her home in Rancho Sante Fe, Calif. She dropped the opening match of the final to Francesca Schiavone, 6-2, 6-4, and won just three games against Flavia Pennetta in the title-clinching match for the Italians.
But Vandeweghe is now a much different player from the one that suited up seven years ago, under the spotlight of Team USA's first final on home soil since its last Fed Cup win in 2000. ADVERTISEMENT
"It was my first-ever tie as a player and I was completely thrown to the wolves," Vandeweghe joked during Wednesday's pre-draw press conference at Chizhovka Arena, "playing against great champions, Francesca and Flavia. I was way out of my league, that's what I remember.
"Hopefully I'm seven years more mature, but my game has evolved so much from when I first played to now and hopefully it will evolve more from one year to the next. That's what you hope for as a tennis player, to keep getting better, to keep improving."
In Minsk this week, Vandeweghe has enjoyed spending an extended period of time with her Fed Cup teammates – players she described as great athletes and even better people. She insists that personality is just as important as ability in team competitions, especially when the stakes are as high as they are in a final.
"It's the personal qualities in each and every individual on the team," she said. "They all realize it's team first and individual second, which we're very used to putting individuals first, week in, week out, so I think with that brings good camaraderie.
"It's a lot of hard work paying off. That's the most satisfying thing as a sportsperson, to see your hard work pay off."
That dedication has not only been seen on the WTA tour, where she has climbed to a career-best No. 10 in the world after reaching the Australian Open and US Open semifinals, but also on the international stage, where she has perhaps shined brightest.
Vandeweghe has been Team USA's on-court leader in 2017, winning two singles matches in the first round against Germany and capturing a pair of singles wins and the doubles victory, with Mattek-Sands, in the semifinals against the Czech Republic. Those wins account for five of the six points the U.S. has needed to advance to this weekend's Fed Cup final.
The daughter of an Olympian, Vandeweghe bleeds red, white and blue and counts representing her country as one of her most proud accomplishments. That's why she has embraced the leadership role and why she wants to lead by example.
"I just took the responsibility of leading with my game, and I've been able to do that for two ties now," she said. "Playing for your country is really important, and I'm very passionate about it and I think everyone around the team feels that.
"It was a big deal in my household to represent your country. Every sport I ever played, I wanted to be an Olympian. Tennis was the last sport I ever played, and the way it manifested itself, where you have Fed Cup and alsothe Olympics, I've been fortuante enough to be called upon by each captain that I've played for. It's a passion I hold, the dream of a kid going out there and playing for my country and having USA on my back."