AT FED CUP, RED, WHITE AND BLUE IS IN
Ashley Marshall | April 19, 2017
WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. – Growing up in a sporting family, it's easy to see how CoCo Vandeweghe developed a natural love of competition. But when your mom represented your country at the Olympic Games, well, that means the red, white and blue is a part of your DNA.
This weekend, CoCo hopes that patriotic spirit and athletic gene will carry Team USA to the Fed Cup final.
Vandeweghe's mother Tauna represented the U.S. twice, swimming for America at the Montreal games in 1976 and then playing volleyball for Team USA on home soil in Los Angeles in 1984.
"I always grew up with kind of a Team USA outlook on sports, just because my mom was an Olympian," said Vandeweghe, part of the four-player squad set to take on the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup World Group semifinal, April 23-23, at the Saddlebrook Resort.
"That's definitely been a big part of the reason why I play sports, is to be a part of Team USA.
"So I think just having that idea and having that mindset brings a lot better atmosphere out onto the tennis court. I think it's important to have a home tie, and vice versa, if you're playing an away tie, you expect definitely the one-sided aspect of cheering. We expect it being one-sided out there on the weekend."
Joining world No. 24 Vandeweghe (above, second from left) on captain Kathy Rinaldi's team is world No. 36 Lauren Davis, No. 49 Shelby Rogers and world No. 1 doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
They'll face the Czech team of No. 38 Katerina Siniakova, No. 58 Kristyna Pliskova, No. 107 Denisa Allertova and No. 223 Marketa Vondrousova.
Although the Czech Republic team is missing key players from the squad that won the past three Fed Cups – Petra Kvitova is recovering from a knife attack, and Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Strycova and Lucie Safarova did not make the trip – Rinaldi is taking nothing for granted.
"Well, we're going into this not underestimating anybody," Rinaldi said at Wednesday's pre-draw press conference. "They, like us, are very strong, a lot of depth in their women's game in singles and in doubles. Recently some of those girls have had a lot of success.
"They're young and they're hungry. We're just expecting them to come out and be playing their best. We're going to go and we're just going to compete. Win or lose, that's what you're going to get from this American team. I've seen them, been around them. They're of great character. We're just going to put it on the line."
Her opposing number, Czech captain Petr Pala, said he believes in his team, even though neither Pliskova nor Vondrousova has played a Fed Cup before and the U.S. holds a 9-2 head-to-head advantage in all-time Fed Cup matchups.
"Well, we're very confident," said Pala, whose squad has won five of the last six Fed Cup championships. "Looking forward for the tie with some new players. They all great players. They climbing on the rankings, so that's good. I think the U.S. team will be the favorites, slightly favorite. But it's only on the paper. I think all the girls can put great performance. We going to try hard as we can to bring three points home."
Rinaldi's team is largely unchanged from the one that swept Germany in the quarterfinals in Maui, Hawaii, earlier this year. The lone change is Davis coming in to replace Alison Riske, but Davis is arguably playing the best tennis of anyone on the team right now.
The Ohio native claimed her first career title in Auckland to begin 2017 and followed it up with a run to the quarterfinals in Doha and Dubai and to the round of 16 in Indian Wells.
" I have had a lot of fun this year, playing well, enjoying myself," Davis said. "It's always nice to be a part of Fed Cup, have that team camaraderie. It's definitely a lot different than what we're used to during the year. So I'm just looking forward to having fun with the girls, competing, playing for my country."
The winner of this tie advances to the Fed Cup final, Nov. 11-12. If the U.S. wins, it would either host Switzerland or travel to Belarus.