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‘Jennifer must talk to me first’

Lowell (Massachusetts): US Fed Cup captain Billie-Jean King says she will not invite Jennifer Capriati to rejoin the American team until the three-time Grand Slam champion agrees to meet her and iron out their differences.

“We have to sit down face to face like champions do with each other,” said King, who has not spoken to Capriati since last April.

“She has to take responsibility for what happened and talk to me about it.

“I’ve known Jennifer since she’s been 12 and I think she’s working through a lot of things right now. I hope she does well,” she said on Thursday.

Last year, King kicked Capriati off the team for not complying with team rules prior to their tie against Austria.

According to the captain, Capriati did make herself available for this weekend’s tie against the Czech Republic at the Tsongas Arena. But King went with a team consisting of world No. 1 Serena Williams, third-ranked Venus, Meghann Shaughnessy (19) and Alexandra Stevenson (26).

By making herself available for Fed Cup, 1992 Olympic gold-medallist Capriati would be eligible to play in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Capriati had refused to cancel a private practice with her father and private coach, Stefano, even though King had instituted a closed, team-only practice policy when the players arrived in Charlotte.

As a result, the US was forced to forfeit Capriati’s first match and ended up losing the tie 2-3 in a chaotic weekend, in which King and Capriati blamed each other, while Monica Seles, Lisa Raymond and Shaughnessy came to the aid of their captain.

“I obeyed the rules as I understood them and fulfilled the obligations I had to the team,” Capriati said at the time.

“It is amazing to me that I am being penalised so severely for simply wanting to prepare as best I can for the Fed Cup and my other commitments.”

Her teammates blamed the fiasco on Capriati.

“Jennifer was the one causing all the disruption during the week,” Seles said at the time. “She didn’t leave us in a great situation.”

Shaughnessy said that it was worth taking the loss while standing behind their team principles.

“The bottomline is, when we came here, there were a set of rules signed for each player. It was Jennifer’s decision not to follow one of them,” Shaughnessy said. “That’s her decision and it’s fine. But, if she’s going to make that decision, she needs to know there are consequences.”

King agreed that principle was more important than victory. “Yes. That’s why I did it,” she said at the time.

King had expected to raise the Cup last year until the events in Charlotte. This year, she is confident of her team’s chances.

“I’ll always be sad about it,” King said. “But you can either see it as a disaster or a new opportunity.

“It’s a motivational factor for all of us. Every single player has come up to me and said: We’ve got to bring back the Cup, this is ridiculous and let’s just make it happen,” she said.

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