CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) – World number two Jennifer Capriati was kicked off the U.S. Fed Cup team late Friday after she refused to cancel a private practice session with her father and coach, Stefano.
U.S. captain Billie Jean King announced that her number one singles player would not be involved when the team began their first round tie against Austria Saturday.
“The Fed Cup competition is comprised of team play, and our team’s rules apply to all players to ensure a team concept,” said King.
“We are disappointed that Jennifer did not agree to comply with our closed, team-only practice policy, and as a result was excused from the team.”
Closed practices are not unusual in team competition, U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe enforces a similar policy to exclude private coaches.
Capriati, the winner of three Grand Slam titles, was scheduled to play Evelyn Fauth Saturday.
But, as a result of her removal from the team, the U.S. will forfeit Saturday’s second match in the best-of-five series. Monica Seles will face Barbara Schwartz in the first game.
In a statement released through her agent, Linda Dozoretz, Capriati denied the U.S. charges and said the rules were unfair.
“I am extremely upset about being dismissed from the Federation Cup team,” Capriati said.
“I was looking forward to representing my country in this prestigious international competition. I am so disappointed by the actions the USTA has taken regarding my status on the Fed Cup team.
“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,” said Capriati.
“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,” said Capriati.
“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.
“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 feel a responsibility to my career, to my sponsors and to my fans. This is detrimental to all of those.”
Fed Cup sources told Reuters that King and the Capriatis were in a heated argument outside the practice courts earlier this week over the same issue, and that the controversy had been simmering. But the world number two said she had been a good soldier.
“I arrived in Charlotte Monday to begin the practice sessions with the team. That’s when I was first informed of the team rules concerning outside practice,” said Capriati, who also played on the 2000 Cup-winning team.
“None of this information had been given to me prior to my arrival in Charlotte. Still, despite this turn of events, I chose to stay with the team and abide by the rules, as outlined by the captain at that time.
“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.”
An agitated Jennifer and Stefano left their hotel for the airport in Charlotte at around 2030.
Stefano has always been a controversial figure around the tennis tour. Many believe it was his sometimes overbearing and intense coaching of his teenage daughter that led to Jennifer’s burn-out and her brief exit from the tour during the mid-1990s.
Capriati is expected to be replaced in the singles lineup by Meghann Shaughnessy.