Archive for May, 2011

Fed Cup!

Fed Cup!

I am spending a lot of time sitting on the couch watching the Tennis Channel. I am pregnant with our second child. So many hours of Fed Cup and Fed Cup reruns have been watched. My record in Fed Cup was 22 and 11. When playing Fed Cup you are playing for your country, your team, your fans and your individual success is the last thing on your mind. There is an immense pressure, responsibility and at times an obligation to win for your country. There are up and coming countries such as Serbia who capture Davis Cup and it is though they won the World Cup. As it should be they may not have the history of some great nations like the US or Australia but now they are a powerhouse in tennis with a population of less than 8 million people. The average fans thinks athletes have private jets, champagne and caviar all the time especially when the countries Federation is footing the bill. I know when i was playing I knew of a Fed Cup team who had to pay all of their own expenses to play and one of them paid their own coach to coach the team. The last year I played before my injury when we lost to France in the finals the whole teams bonus was less than I was paid to play a partial season of Team Tennis in the US. I know it is not all about the money it is for your country, it is an honor. Yes and NO! Andy Roddick had snot running out of his nose in the finals of Memphis because he was sick. He pulled out of Delray and made it to Davis Cup in Chile on clay at altitude. I know everyone wants to travel the world and be in a different city each week. You body has to adjust to different climates, different surfaces and you have to deliver whether you are 100 % or not. Then you jump back on a plane fly back to the US and play on another surface in another climate. Stress of all types takes a huge toll on your body. There is a science to dealing with it but you can only handle so much. But, it is all for your country and it is an honor. The typical tennis player has contracts that are tied to performance. So if participation in Fed Cup or Davis Cup on the way to the finals adds extra stress on the player which leads to an injury or illness it could cost them a lot of money. I know it is for the honor of your country. If I won it would propel my ranking forward which would trigger large bonuses. So, when we made it to the final which we lost because I lost to former top ten player Sandrine Testud. We played three rounds that year beating the US and the Czech Republic. Our compensation was very nominal and we sold out indoor arenas. I was on billboards, the side of buses, you name it and we played the US in my hometown. Yes it is for your country but sports is a business whether you are a team owner, team captain or coach, agent, sponsor wanting the most exposure for your advertising dollars, a player or a fan wanting a good game since they paid hard earned money for the tickets. I know in the old days people played for the love of the game. They also worked second jobs because they could barley support themselves being professionals. The year we made it to the finals I ended up loosing to Martina Hingis in the year end Championships. I can’t blame my big toe nail falling off during the match on Fed Cup. Nor could I blame my locked ankle that was caused me to play less than 100 % in Chicago and Philadelphia prior to the Championships. But, three less weeks of tennis probably would have made a huge impact on my mind and body that year. The year before I pulled out of Fed Cup when I had a bronchial infection I contracted during Wimbledon. I was on antibiotics and inhalers after multiple visits to Drs after I returned from Europe to Florida. I know my teammates were mad at me and felt I bailed on the team. I am sure the bus loads of fans who traveled through Europe to support the team were angry. The sponsors weren’t happy since they ran an advertising promotion around this Fed Cup match. We lost so i am sure all of the fans in Holland were not happy. I had bad dreams for weeks since I felt so guilty for not playing. I told my husband Sean who insisted I not play since I was sick that I would have been better off just playing. So in the end it will always be a constant battle about should top players compete for their country. I believe the men are now getting points for playing. That would make sense. John McEnroe always talks about making it every two years that you have Davis and Fed Cup. There is nothing like playing for your country. There is nothing like seeing an arena full of Orange for me when playing. When I came back after my injury it was a pure joy playing Fed Cup. I played twice in Bulgaria and Turkey in the Euro-African qualification rounds. The girls were young and hungry. They were trying to get back to the top level of Fed Cup play. This was a new level for me and brought a new level of excitement since I was trying to comeback. I was more of a player coach and mentor than anything else. I was able to win my doubles matches. I had more fun playing with these young girls than when I played in the finals. It had nothing to do with the players it had to do with the pressure of being the top player along with all of the expectations. There is always drama, egos and personalities that make any team event interesting. I had an issue with something that happened when I played in Turkey. So the next year when I was trying to get my ranking to a certain level to achieve my goals I chose myself over the team. If I look back I would not have done anything differently. But, just writing this blog brings back memories and feelings that are hard to be replicate. Playing for your country is an honor but all parties just need to realize it is a business. This means fans should get the best play possible for their tickets, sponsors should get the biggest bang for their advertising dollars, federations should capitalize in every way possible when their country succeeds and players should play when they can give it 100% so all parties benefit fully. When I played against the US in Haarlem my hometown we played against Gigi Fernandez and Kim Po in doubles with Mary Joe Fernandez and Chanda Rubin playing singles. The singles players were both top ten as were the doubles players. But, it was not their starting lineup. Monica Seles and Lindsey Davenport had reasons for not playing. I was lucky to have Miriam Oremans on my side since she almost always won in Fed Cup play. We always had great doubles players so it didn’t really matter how we made the lineup. But, the point is while watching recently Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin, The Williams sisters, a host of Russian players and the top Italian players were not playing. I don’t think it was because they did not want to play for the love of their country. It was injuries, timing and maybe too much tennis since they are chasing goals, meeting sponsorship requirements and a host of other real reasons. So the next time you are watching Fed Cup or Davis Cup realize there is more to playing for your country than showing up or not.