Capriati Dropped From Fed Cup Team

Saturday, April 27th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Jennifer Capriati wanted to get extra practice for the Fed Cup competition. Now, she'll be watching from the sidelines.

Capriati was dropped from the U.S. Fed Cup squad Friday night for scheduling a private practice session in violation of captain Billie Jean King's team policy. With the second-ranked Capriati out, the United States will forfeit Saturday's second singles match against Evelyn Fauth in the best-of-5 series at Olde Providence Racquet Club.

``The Fed Cup competition is comprised of team play, and our team's rules apply to all players to ensure a team concept,'' King said on the eve the Americans' first-round match against Austria.

``We are disappointed that Jennifer did not agree to comply with our closed, team-only practice policy, and as a result, (she) was excused from the team.''

Capriati was upset about her dismissal.

``I was looking forward to representing my country in this prestigious international competition, and I had enthusiastically accepted the invitation from the USTA to participate,'' Capriati said in a statement released Friday night. ``I considered this a great honor. I am so disappointed by the actions the USTA has taken regarding my status, and it is important that I clarify the circumstances surrounding their decision.

``It never occurred to me that little-known policies that conflicted with my serious preparation for upcoming tour events would result in this ending.

``I arrived in Charlotte on Monday to begin the practice sessions with the team. That's when I was first informed of the team rules concerning outside practice. None of this information had been given to me prior to my arrival in Charlotte.

``Still ... I chose to stay with the team and abide by the rules, as outlined by the captain. These rules included the fact that all practice sessions were closed, and that not all team practices were mandatory. I obeyed these rules as a team member.

``Today was the last practice date. This morning I fulfilled all of my public relations and promotional obligations to the team, and I followed that by attending the team practice.

``On my own time, following this morning's practice session, I decided that I wanted additional practice in advance of tomorrow's match. Looking beyond this weekend's Fed Cup matches, I am also preparing for some very important tournaments, including the defense of my title at the French Open.

``In response to the team captain, I informed her that I had booked my own practice session with a hitting partner and my coach. I was informed that this was against the team rules, and that if I continued with this practice, I would be dismissed from the team.

``I strongly protested this directive, and consequently was dismissed from the team before this practice even took place.

``I never did practice and do not believe I did anything to hurt the team. I obeyed the rules as I understood them, and fulfilled the obligations I had to the team. It is amazing to me that I am being penalized so severely for simply wanting to prepare as best I can for the Federation Cup and my other commitments.''

Monica Seles will face Austria's Barbara Schwartz in the singles opener Saturday. In place of the forfeited match, American Lisa Raymond will play Daniela Kix in an eight-game pro set exhibition.

The Americans are trying to win their 18th title after withdrawing from the event last year in the wake of Sept. 11.

The U.S. team did not attempt to win its third straight title last October, citing security concerns for opting not to travel to Madrid for the final following the terrorist attacks.

The United States is the top seed in the event and heavily favored to beat Austria even without Capriati. The winner will play the Czech Republic-Croatia winner in a second-round match July 20-21.

Austria will be without Barbara Schett, its top player, who opted not to play in the Fed Cup to concentrate on getting ready for next month's French Open.