February 8, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Kathy, talk about how you made your decision who is playing singles, doubles with Danielle having made the semifinals in Australia, what went through the process?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: First of all, all four of these players are amazing. I believe in all of them. Also they've all started off the year extremely well. Danielle was a little under the weather the last few days, so we're just giving her an extra day of rest.
Again, I think any of these girls can step up and play any position.
Q. Madison, a couple days ago Kathy called you the leader of this team, this very young team. How much do you see yourself as the leader and do you enjoy that role?
MADISON KEYS: I have played on a couple of Fed Cup teams, so I feel like I kind of came in and knew what to expect and all that. Unfortunately I wasn't a part of all of their first times in the final.
But just really excited to be here, do whatever Kathy needs me to do. I'm really excited for this weekend, ready to take on Team Australia.
Q. Sofia, how did the experience in Prague as the away team in the final, how does that prepare you for this?
SOFIA KENIN: Yeah, Prague was something memorable. I'm never going to forget that. Only difference here is they're going to be cheering for me instead of against me. It's going to help me. Hopefully I can take the win for Team USA.
Q. Whoever wants to, but talk a little bit about their team. Obviously Ash, talk about them, their choice of playing Birrell, people would have thought it would have been Dasha.
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I think obviously Team Australia is very strong. Ash Barty, we don't have to say much about. We know she's very talented singles and doubles. Also starting off her year very strongly. Really not surprised.
They have some young, talented girls coming up. We know them. Actually a couple of the girls have been at the training center and trained in Lake Nona at the USTA. Very friendly with our girls.
Not completely shocked, no. We're going to take it one match at a time and not underestimate anybody. We're going to go out there, compete. We're going to be a strong team, have each other's backs, leave it all out on the court. That's all I can ask as the captain.
Q. Danielle, what has been the issue? Have you been able to reflect a few weeks away from your Australian Open?
DANIELLE COLLINS: Yeah, like she said, I've been feeling under the weather. I don't think it goes any further than that. Feeling fine now. Hopefully this will give me another day of recovery and be ready to go on Sunday.
I had a great start to the year. Hope that I can help contribute to the team in every way possible. Yeah, just grateful to have a healthy start to the year, to have had a good run in Australia.
Yeah, hopefully a lot of great matches to come this weekend and for the rest of the year.
Q. Nicole, you were on the team in Prague, but didn't actually play. How much did that help you get familiar with Fed Cup and the coaches?
NICOLE MELICHAR: Yeah, it was unfortunate I didn't get to play, but I loved the team experience. Kathy is such a great captain. We all had an unbelievable experience the whole week.
I think it was just good for me to see how it goes, see the home-versus-away crowds and stuff. It was 18,000 people cheering against us. Now we'll have I don't know how many here, maybe 5,000, 6,000 people cheering for us.
Like Kathy said, it's just as important, your role on the bench, as it is on the court. Whoever is not playing needs to be there for their teammates. I think we'll do that.
Q. Being there for your teammates, as a doubles player in Fed Cup, the fifth match, you hope that the singles players will seal it before it gets to you, but if it doesn't, the whole match is on you. How do you stay ready while supporting your teammates for the first four matches?
NICOLE MELICHAR: Obviously I want our team to win no matter what the score is. If it comes to 2-All, I'm going to be there, do my best, we'll try and get the win. If they get the win beforehand, that's the goal. If they need me, great, but maybe not.
I just hope all our girls play well this weekend, that we have a lot of support.
Q. Kathy, what have you told the team about the experience last year here in Asheville as they prepare as far as crowd support? Madison, is this your first time in Asheville and your experience so far?
MADISON KEYS: This is my first time to Asheville. I so far have mostly just had really good meals (laughter). That's been fun. It's been amazing. The hotel is beautiful. A little bit different scenery than Florida. It's been really, really nice.
Definitely will come back to Asheville.
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I think obviously we had an amazing experience last year with the sold-out crowd. Players know that. I think they feel the support from the community. Everybody just has been extremely helpful, hospitable. They've taken care of our every need. As Madison said, the accommodations are spectacular, the courts great, the venue great.
Yes, we've enjoyed the meals as well. Just a really warm feeling when we get here. I think the experience for tomorrow, starting tomorrow when they play in front of that crowd with all that support, then they're really going to know what we experienced last year.
Q. Kathy, obviously you've led the teams to finals, won one since being captain. What kind of pressure do you feel this year?
CAPTAIN RINALDI: I mean, the first two years have been amazing, but those are in the past. As soon as we were finished last year, we were already preparing for this year.
I'm really excited to have these young ladies here with me, Coach Raymond. We're going to take it one match at a time, one tie at a time, and that's all we can do.
We're just worrying about today. We'll get up tomorrow. We're prepared. We had a great week of practice. We're going to go over some scouting and be ready to go.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.
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