By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) - Coco Vandeweghe thrives on team play and said on Wednesday she hopes to cap a breakthrough season by leading the United States to victory over Belarus in this weekend's Fed Cup final.
Vandeweghe has won all five of the Fed Cup rubbers she has contested this year – four singles and one doubles - and credits her exposure to team sports at an early age for the success she has enjoyed in the international competition.
"I grew up playing team sports. Tennis was the last sport I ever played. I'm very used to a team atmosphere first," the 25-year-old American said on a conference call from Minsk, where the Nov. 11-12 Fed Cup decider will be held.
"Even in our individual tennis, it takes a team to get to where we are each and every day. We just transfer it right now to these great girls that are around me."
Vandeweghe, who made her debut in the top 10 of the world rankings this week after reaching the final of the WTA Elite Trophy, will assume a leading role on a U.S. team seeking their first Fed Cup championship since winning a record 17th in 2000.
Yet at the tail-end of a year in which she reached the semi-finals of the Australian and U.S. Opens as well as enjoying a run to the quarter-finals at the All England Club, Vandeweghe credits her coach, former Wimbledon men's champion Pat Cash, with keeping her hungry.
"The fall season was really difficult for me. It's very hard to find any motivation after U.S. Open because it's such a big tournament for the American players," said Vandeweghe. "It was mostly kind of Pat dragging me through the fall season in reality.
"I didn't really even know top 10 was capable from just ranking points, all the stuff that goes with the WTA rankings, which I don't really understand, but it's not my job to understand, I just play tennis, which is the good part."
While Vandeweghe has enjoyed positive Fed Cup results she does not feel any added pressure on her shoulders as part of a team that also features U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske.
"No, it's a team aspect, so it's definitely not an individual moment," said Vandeweghe. "All egos aside, I'm here for these girls in whatever capacity it may be this week."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)