Mary Joe Fernandez to coach U.S.
PARIS -- Mary Joe Fernandez and Jay Berger will be announced on Tuesday by the U.S. Tennis Association as the head coaches of the U.S. London Olympic team, a source within the USTA said.
Both are successful former players who carry coaching experience with the USTA. Fernandez, 40, has been Federation Cup coach, and now serves as the team's captain.
Berger, 45, is the head coach of men's tennis for the USTA's development program.
Fernandez, who also serves as an analyst for ESPN, comes with her own Olympic credentials. She has won three Olympic medals: gold in doubles and bronze in singles in the 1992 Barcelona Games and gold in doubles in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Berger was an assistant coach for the U.S. team in the 2008 Beijing Games, and represented the U.S. in Davis Cup in 1988 and 1990.
The picture of who will be on the teams coached by Fernandez and Berger has become much clearer as the French Open has progressed. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) will inform each country's tennis association on June 14 as to which players have become eligible to participate as direct acceptances into the London Olympics. A big part of the selection criteria will be the new rankings, released on June 11, to determine which players have reached around the top 60.
Berger and Fernandez did not respond to email requests.
A country can enter a maximum of six players per gender: four for singles into the 64-person draw, and two into the 32-team doubles draw. But there can be two doubles teams entered, meaning some of the singles players will be serving dual roles.
Serena Williams (fifth in the pre-French Open rankings), Christina McHale (36), Venus Williams (57) and Varvara Lepchenko (63) should be inside the top 60, based on their French Open results. Mardy Fish (10), John Isner, Andy Roddick (30) and Donald Young (51) could be on the men's team by virtue of their rankings, although Fish, who is recovering from a procedure to correct a heart ailment, said in April that he would not play in the Olympics.
Venus, who lost in the second round of the French Open, has been very vocal about her desire to play again in the Olympics. She admitted she has been solely focused on playing this season to raise her ranking high enough to make her fourth Olympic team.
"The Olympics is just the ultimate in sports. I grew up watching those documentaries," said Venus, who has won three gold medals. "My dad had us watch those. It was his dream for us to play there. Once I got a taste of it, it was just amazing. Every time I leave the Olympics I go through withdrawals. It's the pinnacle of sports. I love it there. That's the reason why I'm here, on the court today. ...
"I'm not playing under ideal circumstances, but for me it's about, you know, making my Olympic chance better at this point. It's about challenging myself and not giving in."
Doubles teams will likely be the Williams sisters, two-time Olympic gold medalists, plus the specialist team of Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. Bob and Mike Bryan, who won bronze in the 2008 Games, are sure to be in the men's doubles draw. Another men's team would be assembled out of the singles players.
The mixed doubles teams for the 16-team draw will be chosen in the early days of the singles tournament, on site at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, better known as the host venue of Wimbledon.
The biggest change produced by the French Open was Vania King, ranked No. 57, being leap-frogged by Lepchenko. King lost in the second round, while Lepchenko reached the fourth round and gained valuable rankings points.
"I'm not trying to think about the Olympics, but if I get to go, I will be thrilled," said Lepchenko, an immigrant from Uzbekistan.
The process from finishing well in the rankings after the French Open, to getting formally nominated to the U.S. Olympic team, is a little complex.
Players must participate in, or make themselves available for, two Davis Cup or Federation Cup ties sometime during the 2009-2012 seasons to be eligible to represent their country in the London Olympics. One of the playing availabilities must be in 2011 or 2012.
The injury situations to Venus and Serena Williams over the past year, as well as Lepchenko becoming a U.S. citizen in Sept. 2011, are wrinkles the USTA needs to iron out with the ITF.
Venus struggled with injuries last year, especially in the second half when she was diagnosed with Sjorgren's syndrome. But she made herself available to play in a tie in Germany in April 2011 and played the tie against Belarus in Boston last February.
Serena has played in two Fed Cup events in 2012, but none last year. Lepchenko could not play Fed Cup for the U.S. until she became a citizen. She has not been selected to participate in the Fed Cup yet, but she did make herself available for two ties in the last nine months.
McHale is in good standing with Fed Cup appearances.
An ITF source said the USTA will have to lay out the case to show that Lepchenko and Venus tried to participate in Fed Cup, by making themselves available, and that Serena played twice, to satisfy the organization's Olympic credentialing committee.
The ITF will let the USTA, and the other countries' associations, know on June 28 who is on the Olympic entry list. The USTA then will nominate the players to the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the USOC takes care of the rest of the paperwork by July 9.
The tennis tournament starts on July 28, and runs through Aug. 5.
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