Schuettler: With Angie, we have a player who can beat anyone

28/03/2022 17:00

Two years since taking on the captaincy, Rainer Schuettler is hoping to re-energise his tenure when his team, led by world No. 15 Angie Kerber, take on Kazakhstan in the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers

By Jamie Renton
Schuettler: With Angie, we have a player who can beat anyone

Rainer Schuettler has had a stuttering start to life as Germany’s Billie Jean King Cup captain, thanks largely due to the pandemic, so it’s easy to see why he is hoping to re-energise his tenure when his team take on Kazakhstan in the upcoming Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers.

The Germans travel to Nur-Sultan on 15-16 April for a tricky encounter with Yaroslava Shvedova’s side, who boast two top 50 players in world No. 18 Elena Rybakina and No. 47 Yulia Putintseva.

It is a tie that the former world No. 5 views as a must-win as his team seeks to earn the chance to play for the Billie Jean King Cup title again this year, just like they did in a 4-0 win over Brazil in the 2020 Qualifiers, while on a personal level Schuettler seeks to experience all the highs the competition has to offer.

“I haven't experienced that much because of the pandemic,” admitted Schuettler in an interview with the DTB. “But of course it was great that we clearly beat Brazil on my debut.

“In Prague [for the 2021 Finals] we didn’t play as successfully as we had hoped. But we were very close against the Czech Republic. Now we have to win in Kazakhstan and get back to the final for the next highlight.”

Germany failed to progress to the knock-out stages at the 2021 Finals in Prague after losing a decisive doubles against host nation Czech Republic before a comprehensive defeat to eventual runners-up Switzerland, but Schuettler feels they have a team more than capable of a deep run in the women's world cup of tennis.

“With Angie Kerber we have a leading player who is in the top 20, has already won three Grand Slams and can beat anyone,” he said.

“Jule Niemeier and Anna-Lena Friedsam showed what they can do in doubles in Prague – they lost to a world-class Czech doubles in the Champions tie-break. Of course we sometimes have to cope with injuries, but we have other players who can make up for it.

“It doesn't matter whether it's singles or doubles: we definitely have a good chance.”

Schuettler, who coached Kerber between 2018 and 2019, has maintained a strong relationship with his team despite the challenges of infrequent contact during the season.

“I'm good friends with Angie and I am also in regular contact with the others,” he said. “Of course, the pandemic made it extremely difficult for me because I wasn't able to take part in many tournaments. Hopefully that will now change again so that we don't just hear from each other via messages or short phone calls.

“The experience [coaching] Angie has shown me the different [demands] in men's and women's tennis. So far I've gotten along really well with the team – and I hope they get on well with me too. So far we've had a very good time together: working well, training hard and having a lot of fun.”

As a player, Schuettler competed on some of the biggest stages in the sport, reaching the final at the 2003 Australian Open, the semi-finals at Wimbledon and winning Olympic doubles silver at Athens 2004. Now 45, he retains that love of competition on the biggest stage – even from the sidelines.

“It's nice for me to be on the road with the team. I enjoy it very much,” he admitted. “The most tingling moment is when it all kicks off – when everyone is a bit nervous and you can feel the tension. That's what I'm looking forward to the most.”