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Rinaldi to lead U.S. Fed Cup team in expanded captaincy role

December 8, 2016 03:00 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

For the first time in eight years, the U.S. Fed Cup team will have a new captain as it pursues a record-extending 18th Fed Cup championship.

Former Top 10 player Kathy Rinaldi has been named the new captain for Team USA. She takes over from Mary Joe Fernandez, who stepped down in October.

Rinaldi (pictured above left with members of the 2015 U.S. World Junior Finals team) currently serves as a lead national coach within USTA’s player development unit, helping talented American pros achieve a Top 100 ranking. With the Fed Cup captaincy role being expanded to include working year-round with America’s top players and supporting the growth of tennis at the grass-roots level, she will play a pivotal role in the future of the country’s up-and-coming players.

“This is an unbelievable opportunity, and I am incredibly excited and honored to take on the position of U.S. Fed Cup captain,” Rinaldi said Thursday. “I believe that my experiences as both a player and a coach have given me insight that will help me to succeed in this role and can assist in getting the U.S Fed Cup team to the next level. I look forward to working closely with the players throughout the year as we move forward in our goal of bringing the Fed Cup back to the United States.”

With the expanded role of the U.S. Fed Cup captain, Rinaldi will serve as a consistent mentor and presence for the American players, supporting them from the preseason to offseason rather than only during the days surrounding a Fed Cup tie.

“Kathy already commands the respect and confidence of the U.S. players,” said USTA President Katrina Adams. “This, coupled with her leadership experience and winning mentality, makes her the ideal individual to ensure that the team is best composed, and best prepared, to compete with whatever opponent is across the net. Just as importantly, Kathy understands the significance of working with our Community Tennis group to promote the game at the youth level – which will only help to recruit and develop the next generation of Fed Cup and Davis Cup players for the United States.”

Rinaldi, 49, was ranked as high as No. 7 in the world in singles, in May 1986 and No. 13 in the world in doubles, in February 1993. She reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1985, the quarterfinals of the French Open in 1981 and 1986, the fourth round of the US Open in 1982 and the third round of the Australian Open in 1984. She won three WTA singles titles and two doubles titles in her career.

In 1981, Rinaldi became the youngest player to win a match at Wimbledon (14 years, 91 days), a record that stood until 1990.  She received the WTA Newcomer of the Year honor in her rookie season in 1981 at age 14, as well as a WTA Comeback Player of the Year award in 1989 after suffering an injury in 1987. Rinaldi also competed for the U.S. vs. Great Britain in the Wightman Cup competition, winning in 1983, ’85-86.  

As a coach, she has led the U.S. to multiple junior international team competition titles, including the 16-and-under Junior Fed Cup (2012, 2014) and the 14-and-under World Junior Tennis (2009-10). She also coached the U.S. women in the Pan American Games in 2015. Rinaldi has also coached a multitude of American junior and pro women on either a primary or supplemental basis, and was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s National Coach of the Year for tennis in 2011.

Rinaldi takes over from Fernandez effective immediately. Her first tie as Fed Cup captain will be in February, when the U.S. hosts Germany in the World Group first round in Maui, Hawaii.

With 17 Fed Cup titles, the U.S. has captured the trophy more than any other nation, and more than twice as often as any other nation with the exception of the Czech Republic, which has 10 victories.

The U.S. last won the Fed Cup in 2000 but reached the finals in 2003, 2009 and 2010.