Billie Jean King wants only players who want to play on Fed Cup

Friday, June 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ There's a good reason why Venus and Serena Williams are not playing for the United States in the Fed Cup, says Billie Jean King.

``Whoever wants to play on the Fed Cup, that's who I want on my team,'' said King, the captain of the American team. ``I go down the list by rankings and ask those players to play. And they chose not to play.''

The Williams sisters, the top two players in the world, might have been represented if the Americans' match against Israel next month had it not been in the United States, King said.

``I think if we'd been in Europe, Venus probably would have played,'' King said Thursday in a conference call from England. ``I'm not so sure she was going home after Wimbledon.''

Serena, King said, ``said she needed a break.''

``I'm real big on freedom of choice,'' she added. ``That's what makes our country strong. I would like (the Williams sisters) to play, of course. But I'm big on whoever wants to play.''

The American team of Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport, Meghann Shaughnessy and Lisa Raymond will take on the Israeli team in Springfield, Mo., July 19-20.

King, who has an 18-4 Fed Cup record as captain, led the United States to three Fed Cup titles, including 1999 and 2000. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the American team withdrew from the Fed Cup in 2001.

The Americans are having to play their way into the Fed Cup's World Group after losing to Austria in a controversial match which saw Jennifer Capriati quit the team in a much-publicized dispute with King, who refused to let Capriati's coach join her in practice.

The feud has continued to simmer.

``My regret is the long-term relationship with the family,'' King said. ``I've always had a great relationship (with them). Life is about relationships.''

King said she had asked for closed practices.

``Also, you need to know twice she left the team, on the Sunday before the week and on Wednesday. She kept breaking rules all the time and she was late, would change her mind and not travel with the team. The issue was the coaches cannot practice with the players because it's a team event that week and I can't have four coaches and four players on the court.''

King said she had made sure Capriati would have had plenty of practice opportunities.

``There was just a lot of confusion and misperception as to what went on. But I'm very patient with these things. I was very happy to get her more practice time if she wanted it. That was not an issue.''

After winning her opening match at Wimbledon on Monday, Capriati made clear she hasn't forgotten the squabble with King.

``Basically, I didn't do anything wrong.''

``So really, I'm fine with moving on,'' Capriati said. ``I totally believe I did the right thing. I mean, I have no regrets. I think anyone that should have regrets is their side. You know, they lost one of their best players.''