Get ready, the Americans are coming.
That is, some of the country’s top women’s tennis players will be coming to Everett, when the U.S. plays Latvia in a Fed Cup qualifying match Feb. 7-8, 2020, at Angel of the Winds Arena.
“To bring Fed Cup for the first time to the state of Washington, I think, is fantastic,” said Patrick Galbraith, chairman of the board and president of the United States Tennis Association. “We are always looking at different sites to host the Fed Cup when we have a home tie (match), and Everett came forward and they won the bid.”
That Everett won the bid was particularly gratifying to Galbraith, who went to high school at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma and lives on Bainbridge Island after a long and successful career as a doubles player on the pro tour.
“There have been (pro) exhibitions in Seattle before and that creates a little bit of a buzz, but this is completely different,” said Galbraith, who was not part of the selection process. “Fed Cup is almost like a basketball-style atmosphere. The crowd is much more into it than a normal match; the players are pretty intense. It is just a totally different feel than going to watch a (typical) tournament, and I think it will be really exciting for people to come out and watch.”
The United States, which has won the international competition a record 18 times, will be battling Latvia for a spot in the event’s new format: a 12-team “World Cup of Tennis” next April 14-19 in Budapest, Hungary.
This new format requires less of a time commitment from the players, not that U.S. coach Kathy Rinaldi has had trouble finding top players. In the past two years, Serena and Venus Williams have represented the United States, as have Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske and other top players.
Rinaldi has until 10 days before the start of the matches in Everett to announce her team, but it will no doubt be a strong group, and it will need to be with Latvia likely to be led by Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, and Anastasija Sevastova, ranked No. 27 in the world.
“That’s always a difficult process,” Rinaldi said. “You have so many wonderful choices, with so many great American players right now. You want to take them all, but you can’t. You try to put the best team forward to win and there is a lot that goes into it.”
Part of that process is looking at how U.S. players match up against the likely foes from Latvia, and assessing how players do in indoor venues, such as the one in Everett.
As far as the Williams sisters playing, Rinaldi said, “Obviously they have played in the past and are obviously always ones to consider and want on the team, but you look at everybody.”
In 2017, the United States lost in the finals to the Czech Republic and last year it lost to Australia in the quarterfinals. To get a chance to end that drought, the Americans need to first beat Latvia.
“You want to win for your country and you want to win for your teammates and we would absolutely love to get to the finals and join everybody in Budapest and that is definitely the goal,” said Rinaldi, who took over as captain at the end of 2016 and calls it her dream job.
The Fed Cup is the women’s version of the Davis Cup, an event Galbraith played in 1996.
“Growing up, Davis Cup was huge to me and that was one of the things I always dreamed of,” he said. “I didn’t dream of winning Wimbledon. I dreamed of playing Davis Cup. When that happened, it was a huge event for me and representing your country is something special. You are basically playing for yourself all year and now you are playing for your team and your country, and it is a completely different feel than the rest of the year. It means a lot.”
Rinaldi agreed, saying the event in Everett will be one that anyone would enjoy.
“Whether you’re a tennis fan or not, or a player or not, this is about representing your country,” she said. “It’s fun and it’s a family event. You get up close and personal with the players and the emotions are running high. There is nothing like representing your country, and the players take it very seriously and they lay their hearts out on the court. It’s really a unique weekend.”
Two singles matches will be played Friday, Feb. 7, with reverse singles and a doubles match played the next day.
Tickets go on sale to the public Friday and can be purchased at usta.com/fedcup. Two-day ticket packages range from $50 to $250 and single-day prices range from $30 to $135 per day. Those interested in volunteering can email firstname.lastname@example.org.