Canada’s Fed Cup team heads to Austria July 20-21 for an intense two-day World Group Playoff battle against the Europeans. The winner of the tie, which will be four singles matches and one doubles match played over two days, will advance to the prestigious World Group of the international women’s team event. Canada’s team will be named ten days before the event begins. Expect Toronto’s Vanessa Webb to be on hand to help the red and white fight their way into the World Group for the first time since 1994. She answered a few questions about the challenge ahead while in England for the Wimbledon Championships, where she is entered in the doubles draw.
Tennis Canada (TC): What are you guys expecting against Austria?
Vanessa: The team is excited and looking forward to the tie. It'll be tough since we're playing in Austria but as far as draws go, it could have been a lot worse.
TC: How much does it hurt you that you're playing on the road again?
Vanessa: It's hard. Last year, we qualified and had to play the Czech Republic in the Czech Republic. This year we qualified, lost the coin toss and now have to play on the road again. Many of us on the team have never had the opportunity to play Fed Cup in Canada. Unlike Davis Cup, our qualifying is always in Central America, so our only chance to play at home is when we qualify for the World Group Playoff.
TC: What will the team do to prepare for such a tie? How much time will you spend training as a team?
Vanessa: We'll head to Austria a week early to get settled, get some practise on the clay and get used to the time change. Tennis is such an individual sport that a week of training ahead of the tie helps us gain a more team-oriented mentality. Instead of just worrying about one's own game, it's becomes important to make sure that one's teammate is getting a good practise as well.
TC: How do you feel going in? Confident? Do you think the team can pull it off?
Vanessa: I feel confident. Everyone is really looking forward to the tie and we see it as a great challenge. We were not happy with our performance against the Czech Republic last year and I think this year, we really feel like we have something to prove. We don't want to go back to the Americas Qualifying Zone again next year.
TC: How important is Fed Cup to you personally? Does it rank right up there?
Vanessa: For me, representing my country is, without a doubt, the greatest honour. Not many people have the opportunity to represent their country on an individual stage, so I consider myself to be very fortunate. I also love being part of a team. It's much more rewarding when you play for something much greater than yourself - where your wins and losses impact others instead of just your own individual record.
TORONTO – Torontonians Maureen Drake, Vanessa Webb and Sonya Jeyaseelan, along with Marie-Ève Pelletier of Repentigny, have been named to the Canadian Fed Cup team that will take on Austria July 19-20 in an important World Group Playoff, Tennis Canada announced Wednesday.
Former WTA star Rene Simpson makes her fourth appearance as Team Captain, while former Jamaican Davis Cup star Karl Hale of Toronto joins the team as Coach and Toronto’s Marlene Nobrega as Team Therapist.
Drake, Canada’s No.1 player and member of the Fed Cup team since 1991, made her playing debut last year, posting a 4-1 singles record. A 12-year veteran of the pro tour, Drake was named Female Player of the Year by Tennis Canada for 2002. She was the lone Canadian female to participate in this year’s Wimbledon Championships after qualifying for the main draw. She lost in the second round.
Winner of one ITF title so far this year, Webb has been a member of the Fed Cup team since 2000. A graduate of Duke University, Webb is currently the No.2 player in the country at No.137 on the WTA Tour. Winner of the Tennis Canada Excellence Award for Female Doubles Player of the Year in 2002, Webb is also the No.2 doubles player in the country at No.127 on the pro tour.
Jeyaseelan, who has represented Canada in Fed Cup action since 1994, has not been with the team since 2001 while she recovered from surgery. Back on the Tour for just under a year, Jeyaseelan has been focusing on doubles play, already capturing her second career WTA doubles title. Back atop the Canadian doubles rankings, Jeyaseelan holds a Canadian record for most Fed Cup doubles wins with a 14-2 record.
Pelletier, No. 142 on the WTA Tour, made her Fed Cup playing debut last year in Canada’s World Group Play-off with the Czech Republic. Named to the team for the first time in 2001, Pelletier went undefeated in Fed Cup doubles action in April’s Americas Zone Group I round robin. The 21-year-old won her first WTA main draw matches last year.
“We have a solid, experienced team that should put up a great fight against the Austrians,” said Team Captain Rene Simpson. “The girls don’t want to go back down to Group I and I have no doubt that this is going to be an incredible tie.”
The winner of this tie, four singles matches and one doubles match played over two days, will advance to the World Group for 2004. Canada has not been in the World Group since 1994, while Austria was a first round loser in World Group action earlier this year. Canada and Austria have played only once before, in 1986 in Czechoslovakia, with Austria winning 3-0. In the most recent International Tennis Federation Fed Cup rankings, Austria is eighth, while Canada is 14th.
Fed Cup is the international team championship for women. It was founded in 1963 by the International Tennis Federation and has since grown to the point where over 100 countries compete in the event on an annual basis. In 1995, the present format –similar to the zonal format used in Davis Cup – was introduced.