Re: USA vs. Argentina - 1st Round 2009
USTA.com exclusive Q&A with U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez
Friday, December 12, 2008 3:30 PM ET
Mary Joe Fernandez makes her U.S. Fed Cup Captain debut in February 2009 when the U.S. hosts Argentina in Surprise, Ariz.© Getty Images
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
Mary Joe Fernandez will guide her first team as U.S. Fed Cup Captain when the U.S. hosts Argentina in a quarterfinal tie in Surprise, Ariz., February 7-8, 2009. Fernandez, 37, served as Fed Cup coach in 2008, and as a player, was a member of the U.S. Fed Cup team in 1991 and from 1994-'98. She played on the U.S. team that won the title in 1996, defeating Spain in the final. Fernandez says that some of her greatest memories from her playing career came when competing as part of a team, including so many years playing Fed Cup. She is also a well-known tennis broadcaster for ESPN and CBS. Fernandez took a few minutes to talk with USTA.com about the upcoming tie against Argentina and her new role as Fed Cup Captain.
USTA.com: What are you working on for the team right now?
Fernandez: My main thing so far is to communicate with as many of the players as possible. The end of the year is hard because everybody is off. But I’ll see how everybody is playing, who is healthy, who is not. I definitely want to have the best of the best, and I’m trying to see who can play and also I want to bring in the young ones. Being part of the team last year as coach, I really enjoyed the Future Fed Cupper program of the younger girls coming up. We are hoping to continue that and start setting that next generation up to transition. In the next few years they are going to be the future of our team. But it is a lot of juggling. There are a lot of players out there and a lot of young Americans that are coming up and doing well.
USTA.com: What do you think of the facility in Surprise, Ariz.?
Fernandez: I have not been there yet. I did watch the seniors event that was out there on TV and it looked very nice. The fans were great, the courts looked great. I know John Austin (manager of tennis at the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex) pretty well so he told me about the facility. I am looking forward to going out there; I am going in a few weeks, right after the New Year.
USTA.com: What are you looking forward to most about being captain?
Fernandez: I’m nervous, but I’m so excited. I remember this is how I felt when I played. It is just a different feeling when you are part of a team. Being in tennis, an individual sport, you don’t get it very often. Without a doubt, my best memories have come from (when I was on) either a junior team, Fed Cup or the Olympics. Not only when they were victories but also losses - they were tough and you felt that much worse because it was not just you. There was team bonding. I’m looking forward to hopefully keeping that same tradition I learned. My first captain was Marty Riessen, then Billie Jean King, and Martina (Navratilova) came in for a year, and I was with Zina Garrison last year as coach. I’m trying to get that team chemistry and hopefully filling, especially the young ones, with the desire and proud feeling to represent your country. It means even more because in tennis we are not on a team that often. It is a very special opportunity and experience.
USTA.com: Have you started talking to the players, including possible Future Fed Cuppers?
Fernandez: I’ve talked to a ton of players already, from the minute I knew when and where we were playing and who. I tried to email as many people as I could. I got a lot of good responses from a lot of players; some were not available but hopefully will be for the next tie. In general, it has been a very good overall interest and desire to play.
I talked to a lot of the young girls at the US Open. I went to watch almost all of them play. I tried to introduce myself, just have that face to face so they know who you are. I’ve talked to Patrick (McEnroe) a couple of times; he has been at the camps and has been watching them. I am going to call Ola Malmqvist to get his feedback. The good news is there is a lot of good possibility and a lot of great young players. We had a lot of them last year on the team. There really is a good crop that is working very hard and doing very well and hopefully will get a chance throughout the year to be part of Fed Cup. There is a lot of potential, which is exciting.
It is big, this (being on a team) was my best experience, and I just want to be able to contribute the best I can and hopefully make a difference in a positive way.
USTA.com: How do you feel about playing Argentina? Do you know any of their players?
Fernandez: I know their top player, Gisela Dulko. She is solid, has been around awhile and is consistent. We are going to play her on a faster court. She has had her best results on clay. I will be watching in Australia and doing a little scouting. Their next ranked player, I don’t know very well, but some of the girls do so that was helpful when I talked to them. I’m thrilled that we are home - that is a good way to start. I think hopefully we will have a really good chance.
USTA.com: How has being captain changed things for you so far?
Fernandez: So far it has been great. The players have been great and communicating back really well. I have been a lot busier at this time than I was last year. My kids are back in school, and now I’m keeping up, trying to follow everybody and where they are and their results.
We are excited to play at home in Surprise; I think it will be great there. I think they love tennis there. The women used to have a tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz., but they do not have it anymore so I’m hoping we will have a lot of great fans. It is going to be exciting and I am looking forward to the challenge.