Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Melanie Oudin, Liezel Huber, Vania King and practice partner Lauren Davis were in Antwerp as they faced Belgium in the 2011 Fed Cup Quarterfinals February 5-6. Belgium defeated the U.S. 4-1. Each day leading up to and during the tie, a different member of the U.S. Fed Cup Team shared her thoughts exclusively with USTA.com.
Sunday, February 6: Vania King
Well it's me again, I hope you've been enjoying all the blogs so far!
It's our last night in Belgium and while we all had a great trip, I am so glad to go home tomorrow. The others all took the train to Paris after our doubles match so they can't say the same.
We had another tough day, perhaps worse than yesterday because we lost. The final score was 4-1. We all knew it was tough going in because Kim was up against Bethanie, and after that was Yanina vs. Mel. Bethanie fought so hard, she won the first tie-break with some amazing shots -I think ESPN has to put some of those points on the shot of the day!! Unfortunately, Kim picked it up and took the next two sets. With that result, we were unable to come back, so Melanie's match became a dead rubber as well as our doubles.
However, Liezel and I salvaged some pride for Team USA and won the doubles against a solid Belgian duo. So that was probably the first highlight of the day, the second being the Domino's pizza that was waiting for us when we came back to the hotel!! If you ever wondered if tennis players eat "junk" food or ever splurge on it, now you know the answer!! Mel, Bethanie, and Liezel took four pizzas with them on the train because they had to leave right away. I hope it was enough!!!
The third highlight (or continuation of the second) was the ice cream. It was a hard fought match and we all tried our best! That's what happens in tennis, you can't predict what is going to happen, you win sometimes and you lose sometimes, hopefully winning more and can only expect to make your best effort!
I have yet to pack, and its almost half past 12am so I'm going to leave you guys on that...
Until next time...
Saturday, February 5: Vania King
It's been a long day and with the crazy jetlag that I still cant seem to shake off, I'm really looking forward to a good night's rest! On my birthday I was given a box of Belgian chocolates which I had resisted to all but one a day, however I was craving something sweet and ate half the box this evening. So am in a bit of a chocolate coma right now!
Well, Team USA didn't have such a good Day 1 of Fed Cup, having lost both our singles matches, but our morale is still high. Bethanie lost a tough two-setter to Yanina Wickmayer who has improved a lot the last two years. I remember playing juniors against her, and she started playing professional tournaments a bit after I did. Bethanie fought hard though, and had her chances in the second set, however Yanina was a bit lucky by clipping the net on match point with the ball just rolling over to finish the match.
Up next was Mel against Kim Clijsters which everyone knew was going to be a really tough match for her, for anyone really. We could tell she was a bit nervous in the first set, but in the second Mel really picked up her game and played at a really high level. She unfortunately lost it with one break, but fought her heart out which Mel is always known for!! That is the most important thing in matches, and in life, I believe, to try the best you can, making decisions and competing to the best of your ability.
Afterwards the team met back up at the hotel for dinner where Liezel had brought in sushi, a real treat since we've been eating at the hotel all week. We also were given French fries which Belgium is known for, however, they were French fries, and not proper "Belgium fries" as they are known here. So our next goal is to get some proper Belgium fries and waffles since we (at least I) have already had one or many chocolates.
Tomorrow is our last day and the biggest day for us--two singles and finally our doubles! :) Bethanie is up first against Kim, which will be a tough test, however, as my coach tells me--the impossible is possible!! Next Melanie plays against Yanina, and finally Liezel and I are playing against Flipkens and Mestach.
I'm going to go to bed now because my sister has already fallen asleep and The Mummy 3 is finishing.
Good night everyone!
Friday, February 4: Lauren Davis
Hi everyone, my name is Lauren Davis and I am here in Belgium as a practice partner with the U.S. Fed Cup Team. I’m 17, I recently turned professional, and I am traveling with the U.S. Fed Cup Team for the first time.
The first few days here in Antwerp I did not really know anyone and it took me a bit to get used to it but I’ve made some new friends, I’m having a lot of fun and learning a lot. I knew Melanie a little bit before I came here but I didn’t know anyone else on the team. I like all of them so much now!
Liezel is so funny, she is such a trip. Melanie is just Melanie, she is so nice. Vania is so knowledgeable, I’ve learned a lot from her. Bethanie and her husband Justin are both really nice, I like them a lot.
I did not know Mary Joe too well either but she is so nice. She really welcomed me to the team. I knew her a little from a Cleveland, where she lives and I am from, but that was it.
On Thursday night, as the team rookie, I had to give a speech at the official dinner, which I was told was a team tradition for rookies. I heard I was going to be giving a speech just on Wednesday afternoon. Mary Joe was talking and said ‘I haven’t told Lauren yet…’ and I heard and said ‘What?" She said ‘You have to give a speech tomorrow night’ and I just said ‘Ok, that’s fine.’ I thought it went well and at the end I asked everyone in the room to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Vania since it was her 22nd birthday.
I only got the idea five or ten minutes before I started talking when Liezel said ‘Why don’t you sing to Vania?" She told me to invite Vania up to the podium but I didn’t want to put her on the spot.
I have given speeches in front of a lot of people before so that was not too many to talk in front of but I do like to sing! I am so bad but I don’t care. I led the room in singing and it was fun and exciting to sing into the microphone in front of the whole room.
Now I am really excited for the start of matches tomorrow. I am going to cheer as loudly as I can for Team USA!
Thursday, February 3: Melanie Oudin
I am very happy to be here in Antwerp and back playing Fed Cup again. I have actually never been to Belgium before but it is pretty cool here. The weather was a little gloomy to start but today we actually saw some blue sky and sunshine. We have had a great week of practice too so far and the whole team is ready for a big and exciting weekend.
We had our first team game of Charades last night and it got interesting as it always does. Mary Joe and Joanna, our team trainer, were captains and divided everyone into teams. I was on Joanna’s team and we did well although Mary Joe’s team did a good job of picking hard movie titles to act out!
The official dinner then was tonight and it went really well. Lauren Davis gave a great speech as the Fed Cup rookie on the team and Mary Joe’s speech was also great as usual. Today was Vania’s birthday so Lauren got everyone at dinner to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her and the food was really good, especially for a Fed Cup dinner outside the U.S.
Mary Joe then told us all tonight who will be playing in what positions for this weekend’s tie but I can’t give it away before it is officially announced tomorrow at the draw ceremony! But as I have said before, if I am to play it would be an honor to play against Kim Clijsters, who I grew up watching and admiring as a player. I said it actually at the Fed Cup final last year, how much I admired Kim, the way she plays and the way she was able to come back and win the US Open and then defend her title after being out of the game for so long. It just shows how talented a player she is. That said, if I play against her for the first time this weekend, of course I want to win!
Wednesday, February 2: Vania King
Well it's Wednesday in Belgium and we had another great day of practice with the team. I had such a long first two days Monday and Tuesday because of the jetlag--I only slept three hours on the plane ride here and one hour the first night! Good work for the world traveler :). But I got in a nice sleep last night, thirteen hours like a rock..my sister told me she could have banged pots and pans and I wouldn't have budged.
This is my first time back to Fed Cup since the final against Italy in 2009 and it is so nice to be back! We rarely get the chance to play in teams, tennis is such an individual sport unless you count doubles and even then its only two players. I believe teams are where we really bond with the other players, get to know them personally and make the best memories.
It's also the first time I've been in Europe in the winter, and its really cold! I'm a California and Florida girl so I'm not used to the weather, but on the other hand, its also really pretty as well. There is a part of town that is very quaint with old architecture - these are the things I love to see when I'm traveling.
I had a nice hit this morning with Bethanie, who just came yesterday, and in the afternoon we played doubles points, first I played with Melanie and then with Liezel, which was a lot of fun. We also played a few singles points with the returners rotating with Mel and Lauren Davis, a junior player who is also a practice partner for the U.S. team.
In the evening we had dinner and played our famous "Charades" game (which we do every Fed Cup). I'll be honest, I'm not the best Charades player, however I don't think I'm the worst, haha! Although I am really not a movie buff, so my guessing skills aren't too creative. We are pretty lenient though, we don't time anyone and we all end the night with a few good laughs!!
Well, it is getting late and we have an early practice tomorrow so I'll leave you guys for tonight!
Cheers everyone :)
Tuesday, February 1: Bethanie Mattek-Sands
I played 25 matches before the end of January, so that is always good, and now I am here at Fed Cup in Antwerp feeling good and I am feeling healthy, which is most important. Australia was a lot of fun, it is one of my favorite places to go. I felt comfortable there, I had a great time and I had great time with Meghann Shaughnessy playing women’s doubles in the Australian Open. The weather at a few tournaments was a little up and down but overall, I had a blast.
I don’t think it could have been a better start to my year confidence-wise than winning the Hopman Cup with John Isner and then reaching the final in Hobart. I had some great matches at Hopman Cup; I played Francesca Schiavone and I played Justine Henin and just playing mixed doubles with John was awesome. That was a great start to the year. There is a pressure because everyone wants to win but at the same time, it is pretty cool with country vs. country, playing with the guys, the stadium was packed and it was just a great atmosphere in Perth.
After Australia, I went home for just 30 hours before coming here to Antwerp but it was worth it. It was 20 hours traveling home to Arizona, then I stayed there for 30 hours, then we had like 12 hours to get here today. It is a lot of traveling, I’m not sure what time zone I am in yet, but I have a few days before the matches so there is plenty of time to get adjusted. But all the traveling was definitely worth it as I had two nights in my bed and I got to see my dog. Basically it is just enough time to repack for the next trip. I had all warm weather clothes coming from Australia and it is freezing here, so I pretty much rotated my clothes and left to come here!