Rinaldi appointed USA Fed Cup captain
Kathy Rinaldi, a former Top 10 singles player and Wimbledon semifinalist, has been named as USA Fed Cup captain taking over from Mary Joe Fernandez
The USTA had to look no further than their current coaching ranks to select former top 10 star Kathy Rinaldi as the next USA Fed Cup by BNP Paribas captain.
Rinaldi, who reached a career high ranking of No. 7 in singles and No. 13 in doubles in her playing days, and was a 1984 Wimbledon singles semifinalist and reached the doubles semifinals at all four Grand Slams, takes over the captaincy from Mary Joe Fernandez.
Fernandez, who reached two Fed Cup finals in her tenure as captain, retired from the position in October after eight years on the job.
The USTA redefined the criteria for their Fed Cup captain search in that the person they were seeking would be required to be involved with player development on a continual basis throughout the year.
A selection committee of four - USTA chief executive of tennis Stacey Allaster, USTA general manager of player development Martin Blackman, former player Chanda Rubin and current player Venus Williams - determined Rinaldi was the perfect candidate for the new Fed Cup captain. Rinaldi’s role for the past year has been Lead National Coach, Team USA - Pro Women for USTA Player Development, and she has had in-depth experience working with American juniors, including guiding two USA Junior Fed Cup teams to victory in 2012 and 2014.
If there was any question that the USTA is more than hopeful that Rinaldi can deliver the first Fed Cup trophy to the USA since 2000, USTA president Katrina Adams squelched those doubts in her announcement of Rinaldi’s appointment on Thursday afternoon.
"We are extremely happy to have someone like Kathy with her great coaching skills, her leadership capabilities and mentorship capacity that she can bring to our players of today and of tomorrow, and even more, so we’re happy to have her as our captain that will bring the Fed Cup back to the US soil."
Rinaldi, who will pilot her first Fed Cup tie at home, against Germany, in Maui, Hawaii this coming February, appears prepared to handle the pressure of the job. While Rinaldi didn’t feature as a Fed Cup player, she was the Fed Cup coach under former captain Zina Garrison in 2006 and 2008.
"I am a little nervous," said Rinaldi, during a phone conference call on Thursday. "But as I tell the players, that’s a good thing because that means you have a great opportunity ahead of you. Everything meaningful and great has challenges. I’m up for it."
When Rinaldi is asked what’s the most essential skill-set she possesses to enable her to be a successful captain, the native Floridan doesn’t hesitate with a response.
"I really don’t like to toot my own horn, but I’m so passionate about what I’m doing," she said. "I really care about the sport. I really truly care about the players. I know how tough it is. I have so much respect for all the players. I think the bond that I have formed with players, hoping they know I’m truly in their corner."
Presuming all the American players make themselves available for Rinaldi’s debut as captain, she could field the team by going with experience in the names of Serena and Venus Williams, add in Top 10 newcomer Madison Keys, and contemplate other options such as Sloane Stephens, CoCo Vandeweghe and Alison Riske for singles, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands for doubles.
"The philosophy is to put the best team together, the best team possible, and to win the Fed Cup, to bring it back to the US," Rinaldi said. "The philosophy is just to look at everybody, to be in everybody’s corner."
A realist, Rinaldi is under no illusions her first foray as captain will be a tough ask against Germany, despite its locale being a glorious lush, aloha-friendly home tie.
Germany boasts the current No. 1 player in the world in Angelique Kerber, the reigning Australian and US Open champion, with a wealth of talented backup players in Andrea Petkovic, Julia Goerges and Sabine Lisicki.
"She’s had an incredible year," Rinaldi said of Kerber. "What can you say about Kerber? She’s tough. She’s the No.1 ranked player. I’m starting off with a lot of pressure here, but I’m up for it, the challenge.
"They have quite a few players in the Top 100, girls having a good year. They’re a solid team obviously. We’ll need to put together a good, solid team, and come together as one."