Tuesday, June 5, 2012
U.S. Olympic tennis captains named
By Joanne C. Gerstner
PARIS -- The London Olympics tennis tournament is still about seven weeks away, but newly named U.S. captains Mary Joe Fernandez and Jay Berger say they already can't wait to get started.
Fernandez, who won three medals in two Olympics appearances, and Berger, who was an assistant coach for the 2008 Beijing team, were formally introduced Tuesday by the U.S. Tennis Association.
Dan James, head U.S. national wheelchair team coach, was chosen coach for the U.S. Paralympic wheelchair team.
"When I look back at my career, the highlight was being at the Olympics," said Fernandez, an ESPN analyst who won a gold and bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Games and a gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. "Just being a part of it, something you've watched on TV as a little kid and cheered, and then all of a sudden you go to being there. You ask yourself, 'Is this really happening?'
"I'm really lucky to get to be part of that all again. Three times, wow, I'm very lucky to get to do this again."
Fernandez and Berger will await the nomination process of their teams, which will kick off with the release of the post-French Open rankings June 11. The Olympic tournament runs July 28 through Aug. 5 and will be held at the All England Club, site of Wimbledon.
Both coaches will have to work with some health issues affecting their squads.
Fernandez likely will have Venus and Serena Williams, Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko, plus doubles players Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond on her team.
Berger likely will have Andy Roddick, John Isner and Donald Young, plus doubles-playing brothers Bob and Mike Bryan.
The teams will be finalized by the USTA and the International Tennis Federation, then submitted to the U.S. Olympic Committee for final nomination to the London Games in the coming weeks.
One question mark for Berger will be the availability of top-ranked American (No. 10) Mardy Fish, who is recovering from May 23 corrective heart surgery and has started practicing lightly.
Berger, a national coach for the USTA player development program, said he's not expecting to have Fish, but hopes to speak to him once the nomination process starts next week. Another element in flux is who will be the second doubles team.
"We have a lot of things to sort out, but it will all come in due time," Berger said. "I've known all of these guys for years, some of them, since they were kids. It's going to be a great team, and getting to represent your country is a big deal to all of them. And me, too. The Olympics are like no other event, I learned that first-hand in Beijing. It's special for a reason, you feel it."
Fernandez's challenge will be monitoring the strength of Venus Williams, who is hoping to play singles, doubles with Serena, and mixed doubles, all while dealing with the symptoms of Sjorgen's syndrome.
Williams' chronic autoimmune condition can leave her fatigued, as evidenced in her second-round, 6-2, 6-3 loss to Agnieszka Radwanska at the French Open.
"Venus has been very open with me with about how she's feeling, which I appreciate," said Fernandez, who also is the U.S. Fed Cup captain. "She's been fantastic in letting me know what's going on, and that's important for us to know. She's done an incredible job getting her ranking up so she can be on the team. We'll see how everybody does at Wimbledon and make some decisions going forward.
"I think we're all just really excited about heading to London, especially Wimbledon, for the Olympics."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.