Beautiful Hawaii no distraction for Team USA's Fed Cup team

February 9, 2017 08:59 AM

By Ashley Marshall,

The beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui seems like the perfect place to relax after the first Grand Slam of the year.

But while soaking up the sun on golden beaches, working on your short game on pristine golf courses and watching a family of whales breach the clear blue sea is every bit as rejuvenating as it sounds, Team USA’s Fed Cup team isn’t about to let a dream location interrupt the current task at hand.

The U.S. takes on Germany in a World Group first-round tie this weekend as it goes in search of a record 18th team championship.

“I think it's been amazing,” first-time Fed Cup captain Kathy Rinaldi said of the Maui venue. “I mean, it's very relaxing here. We're all working hard. We're enjoying ourselves. Obviously we have tough opponents in Germany. They have a strong team. We're training hard, we’re staying focused. We're also enjoying being here and enjoying the activities and the people. Everyone has been very hospitable.”

Rinaldi named Australian Open semifinalist and world No. 20 CoCo Vandeweghe, No. 40 Alison Riske, No. 53 Shelby Rogers and No. 1 doubles player Bethanie Matek-Sands to her squad to contest the best-of-five tie, played over two days this Saturday and Sunday at the Royal Lahaina Resort.

The winner of this matchup will advance to face either the Czech Republic or Spain in the World Group semifinals, held April 22-23, for a chance to compete for the 2017 Fed Cup title. The losing nation will compete in the World Group Playoffs in April to remain in the World Group for 2018.

“We really enjoyed being in Hawaii last year,” said Mattek-Sands, who was part of the team that swept Poland 4-0 in Kailua-Kona, located roughly 80 miles south of Maui last February.

“It was a great atmosphere. Like CoCo said, there was great attendance. Fed Cup is kind of like no other tournament. The crowd gets really into it. Obviously you want to take advantage of being at home in the U.S., get the crowd behind you, because it's intimidating when you're the away team sometimes. I think after we played in Hawaii last year, we were all like, 'Let's make this a thing and go back.' Here we are.”

Germany’s captain Barbara Rittner earlier named No. 36 Laura Siegemund, No. 52 Andrea Petkovic, No. 57 Julia Goerges and No. 77 Carina Witthoeft to face Team USA. Reigning US Open champion Angelique Kerber will not play in the tie.

“I believe any team they have, any team we play, is going to be tough,” Riske said of the matchup. “I think we're going to have to take it one match at a time and give it our best effort, fight as hard as we can. I feel like all of us do every day. Nothing out of the ordinarily. But, yeah, we're looking forward to it.”

Rinaldi praised Germany’s strong lineup but said she had confidence in Team USA to advance to the semifinals.

“It's a strong team. I think we're just going to go out and we're going to compete,” she said. “We're going to have each other's backs. We're going to go one match at a time, as Allie said. We're going to be there supporting each other and be all in. I think that's crucial and that's important in a team format. Really looking forward to it. I'm super excited.”