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TENNIS

King Dismisses Capriati From Fed Cup

April 27, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two-time Australian Open champion Jennifer Capriati was removed from the U.S. Fed Cup team by captain Billie Jean King on the eve of its match today against Austria for not agreeing to comply with team rules.

The unprecedented development not only leaves the U.S. without its No. 1 player for the weekend competition at Charlotte, N.C., it also forces the U.S. to forfeit Capriati's match against Evelyn Fauth because Capriati's dismissal came after Friday's draw.

The forfeit means that the only match the U.S. can win today is Monica Seles versus Austria's Barbara Schwartz. Austria will be awarded the other point.

Tension had been simmering between the Capriati camp and King most of the week. At practice Tuesday, Stefano Capriati, Jennifer's father and coach, was told that it was a closed session and that he would have to leave, according to Capriati's agent, Barbara Perry.

The issue came to a head Friday after the draw and the teams' news conferences. Despite hours of discussion and negotiation, the differences remained unresolved. Capriati was dismissed, and the family left Charlotte Friday night.

"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. "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. We wish Jennifer the best of success in the upcoming European swing and in defense of her French Open title."

Capriati said she tried to stay within the framework of the team rules. After practice Friday, she arranged for another session with her coach and a hitting partner, and Capriati said she was told that was against team rules.

"I strongly protested this directive, and consequently was dismissed from the team before this practice even took place," Capriati said. "I never did practice and do not believe I did anything to hurt 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."

Capriati's reaction came in a nine-paragraph statement issued by her agent, Perry, and management company IMG.

"It never occurred to me that little-known policies that conflicted with my serious preparation for upcoming tour events would result in this ending," Capriati said. "I feel a responsibility to my career, to my sponsors and to my fans. This is detrimental to all of those."

Meghann Shaughnessy, who is scheduled to play doubles with Raymond, is a likely candidate to play singles in Capriati's spot Sunday.

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