Emotions run high as tearful Rinaldi exits BJK Cup stage

11/11/2023 06:39

After six years in the role, Kathy Rinaldi has stepped down as USA's Billie Jean King Cup captain

By Ross McLean
Emotions run high as tearful Rinaldi exits BJK Cup stage
It always promised to be a tear-jerker and so it proved. There was barely a dry American eye in the room as Kathy Rinaldi fielded questions at a Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge press conference for the final time.
Rinaldi announced pre-tournament that she would be standing down as USA’s Billie Jean King Cup captain at the end of the 2023 Finals after six years at the helm.
Within that time, USA collected a record-extending 18th Billie Jean King Cup title as the Americans dispatched Belarus in Minsk during the final of 2017 – Rinaldi’s first full season in the United States hotseat.
Rinaldi will be replaced by former world No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion Lindsay Davenport but remain in her role as the USTA Player Development’s Head of Women’s Tennis.
All week there has been a sense of mission within the USA camp, with the American players determined to give Rinaldi the perfect send off. However, the journey was ended by Czechia in a winner-takes-all group decider on Friday.
It is clear that a significant bond has been forged between Rinaldi and her players during the last six years with huge sentiment attached to her period in charge.
“It’s been an incredible week – an incredible week,” said an emotional Rinaldi. “I’ll take this week with me. I'll take all my ties as it has all been incredible. I have loved my position as captain and I’ll miss it greatly.
“But I am very grateful and very honoured that I had the years that I have and there are so many memories. My saying has always been, ‘what happens at Billie Jean King Cup stays at Billie Jean King Cup.
“So I’m not giving anything away – that’s ours and I feel that’s what is so special. And the bench, I am going to have to get one of those for my backyard and you guys are going to have to come visit me on my bench.”
Rinaldi is the second long-serving captain to call time on their Billie Jean King Cup tenure following their team's exit from the 2023 Finals. Australia's Alicia Molik, who was in charge for a decade, also announced pre-tournament that she would be stepping away. 
USA's players have been queueing up this week to pay their personal tributes to Rinaldi and there were more touching words from Danielle Collins, who was also moved to tears.
“What’s most memorable about being on Kathy’s teams and having gotten to know Kathy so well over the years, she is more than just a coach,” said Collins.
“Everybody who has played for Kathy feels the same way. She has been a true friend to all of us and she’s a role model to all Americans, men and women, and we’ve created so many memories over the years.
“Kathy has always been the first person to make herself available to talk, to be a friend and that’s what separates her. That's why this week has been so emotional for us. We love Kathy.
“If I had my way, I’d bring back Kathy every tie and I would have her at every tournament – and have her as my neighbour, my roommate. We just have so much fun together and there’s never a dull moment.
“We go through ups and downs and Kathy has been one of the consistent themes and consistent people in our lives. I just love her to death.”
Very few could argue with those such heartfelt and profound sentiments. Farewell, Kathy.