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This year's Fed Cup team having fun

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By Cynthia Faulkner
ESPN.com


LOWELL, Mass. -- Raise your hand if you can explain Fed Cup to your friend, neighbor or significant other?

If you can't, U.S. captain Billie Jean King isn't surprised.

"To be frank, most people don't even know what Fed Cup is," King said. "So this our chance to put it on the map, get people interested."

The chance came because the top two American players, who just happen to be the Williams sisters, plan to play every match this weekend against the Czech Republic in the only competition where individual players get to compete as a team.

"When Venus Williams and Serena Williams play it makes a huge difference," King said. "Everybody knows them and children love them."

So what happens when two of the best players in the world take on Daja Bedanova, who's never won a set against either sister, and Iveta Benesova, whom neither has even seen play?

King says overconfidence is the least of their worries. The U.S. team has spent more time laughing and building team spirit -- a definite change from last year in Charlotte. Creating a feeling of teamwork and bringing more attention to Fed Cup are high priorities for King this week.

And it seems to be working.

"More than anything, it's just the whole experience of being on the team with the other players and with coaches," Venus said, "and the whole experience is what you take to memory for the rest of your life."

The rest of the team includes Meghann Shaughnessy, who replaced Jennifer Capriati last year, and Fed Cup rookie Alexandra Stevenson. Plus two young practice partners Jamea Jackson and Ally Baker.

"The top players are living the dreams of the younger ones," King said. "They've been hanging out. I mean they did Jamea's hair. Jamea had Venus and Zina Garrison, our assistant coach, who were getting her hair all done for the 'do last night for the dinner we had."

Serena played the role of in-house make-up artist.

"Actually, the hidden talent is Venus," Stevenson said. "She does her eyes really well. She's just quiet."

It wasn't that way last year in Charlotte when King kicked Capriati off the team for not following team rules. The move forfeited Capriati's match and eventually contributed to sending the U.S. team back to qualifying. King blamed Capriati. Capriati blamed King. The other players sided with King.

But this time has been fantastic, King said.

"The top player kind of sets the tone and because Serena and Venus are so much fun -- they're very connected, they're very social, they're very kind -- they set the tone for this week. It's just been incredible. All we do is laugh. We hurt we've laughed so much." That attitude also makes it easier on the coaches, who ask the players what they want to work on and focus on those aspects.

"If we want to make an outside comment or something we do," King said. "We're not afraid to because we all get along. That's really wonderful, there's no fear factor."

As Serena began to talk about her coach, King plugged her ears. But she had no worries.

"I think Billie is just fabulous to work with," Serena said. "She has the best sayings. She's extremely motivating. It just makes me want to work harder. Just to be able to be out there with her, I think, is a great opportunity."

"We're very clear to keep everyone grounded," King said.

"These players are very grounded also because of their caregivers. … You can tell they all come from very good families and are very grounded, and they know they're very blessed. I think that makes for a great team."

Certainly a more cohesive one.
 

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The rest of the team includes Meghann Shaughnessy, who replaced Jennifer Capriati last year, and Fed Cup rookie Alexandra Stevenson.
Plus two young practice partners Jamea Jackson and Ally Baker.

I did not know this! That is so cool for Jamea and Ally! :hearts: :hearts:

Great article; thanks (as always!), tennisIlove09! :kiss:
 

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looks like they had a great time this year. i hope this wasn't billie trying to prove a point about team ethics though. jen has played before on the team and she helped make a great atmosphere as well.
 
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