Full of confidence and in fine form on the WTA circuit after winning her fourth career title at Katowice last week, Alize Cornet is in buoyant mood ahead of France’s Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off this weekend.
France takes on USA in St. Louis on 19-20 April for the right to play in the top tier of the competition for the first time since 2011, and Cornet, for one, can’t wait for another opportunity to pull on her country colours.
“It’s amazing to play for your country,” said the world No. 21. “It happens only twice a year and it feels very different from the tour where it's individual and you only play for yourself, you have your own world, your own team.”
A difficult start to her Fed Cup career saw Cornet lose her first eight rubbers for her nation, but the Nice native has turned the corner on those defeats to become an integral figure in a tight-knit French team.
She won her singles and the decisive fifth doubles rubber in France’s 3-2 triumph over Switzerland in February to earn her nation a shot at returning to the World Group for the first time in three years.
And Cornet believes the atmosphere within Amelie Mauresmo’s French team has played its part in their recent success.
“This time of the year we can be all together sharing some good moments on and off court and some different emotions so I’m very looking forward to this weekend,” said Cornet. “We are lucky to have a really nice team. We get along well together. That's very important for the group.”
USA captain Mary Joe Fernandez echoed Cornet’s sentiments with regard to her own team.
“These weeks are unique and it's different because the team practices together; they do pretty much everything together,” said Fernandez. “It's special, because you come together for a common cause and everybody cheers each other on.”
The common cause is clear for USA this weekend. Fernandez has put her faith in a young team, led by Sloane Stephens, to defend its World Group position and defeat France for the 12th time in 13 meetings.
And Fernandez is banking on her players to step up to the task in a team environment to carry them through.
“You do get a little bit of extra motivation [playing for your country],” said Fernandez. “It means more to win; means a lot when you lose. It hurts more when you lose, too.
“When I look back on my career, some of my fondest memories are always when I was part of a team.”