- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2003

After bottoming out in the mid-‘90s, Jennifer Capriati made a dramatic return to the WTA Tour top 10 in 2001, when she won two Grand Slams and authored arguably the best comeback story in tennis.

But Billie Jean King offers a comeback story she says is more compelling.

“Chanda Rubin has overcome a number of operations and obstacles, and has had a unbelievable run to get back into the top 10,” said King, the U.S. Fed Cup captain. “Her passion and perseverance and success are one of the great stories in our sport. She is an inspiration.”

This weekend, area tennis fans have a chance to see the talented and tenacious Rubin.

Rubin, ranked eighth in the world, will lead the U.S. Fed Cup team against Italy in quarterfinal play today at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Northwest.

Rubin, 27, is eager to play, as King can testify.

“Chanda called me 9:30 p.m., a day before the names had to be turned in,” King said. Rubin along with Alexandra Stevenson, the 28th ranked singles player in the world, were added to the U.S. team roster in place of Venus Williams and Monica Seles, who both withdrew because of injuries.

The Fed Cup is a chance for Rubin, Stevenson, 18th ranked Meghann Shaughnessy and No. 26 Lisa Raymond to make career statements.

And Rubin is ready for the challenge.

“I’m looking forward to anchoring the team,” said Rubin, who will play both singles and doubles. “I’m expecting tough matches. We have to play solid and not put extra pressure on ourselves.”

It is remarkable that Rubin has reached this point in her career, considering the injuries she has been plagued with over the years.

In April 1996, Rubin reached a career-high No.6 in world. She also was an Australian Open semifinalist, losing to Seles. To get there she won the longest women’s match in Australian Open history — 3 hours and 33 minutes — in defeating then-No.3 Aranxtra Sanchez-Vicario in the quarterfinals. At that tournament she also won her lone Grand Slam title, with Sanchez-Vicario, in doubles.

She reached the final of the ‘96 Lipton Championships, now known as the Nasdaq 100 Open, losing to then-No.1 Steffi Graf. In that match, Rubin fractured the hook of the hamate bone in her right hand, and after undergoing surgery, she struggled trying to regain her form. She fell to No.78 in 1998.

In 2000, she reached the quarterfinals at the French Open, her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in four years. In the season-ending championships she was hampered by a knee injury.

After the 2001 Australian Open Rubin had arthroscopic surgery on her left knee for a meniscus tear. More injuries followed, a strained left Achilles’ tendon and an aliment in her left knee.

From January through April 2002, she withdrew from tournaments, and missed the Australian Open for the first time since 1991 because of knee surgery in mid-January. She fell to 69th in the world.

“The second knee surgery was tough because I injured it again and had to rehab six months after just having surgery,” Rubin said. “My family was helpful. They were there for me during those tough times.”

With that support, Rubin came back better than ever last year. She won two titles, one in Eastbourne on grass and the other in Los Angeles on hardcourts, handing world No.1 Serena Williams one of her five losses in 2002. She finished the year ranked 13th.

This year, Rubin has continued her rise. She has won two titles (Eastbourne and Madrid) and reached the quarterfinals of the French Open before losing to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. She moved up to No.7 after her strong showing at the French.

She lost some momentum at Wimbledon, falling to Italy’s Silvia Farina-Elia, who is not competing here because of a shoulder injury.

After her disappointment at Wimbledon, Rubin is looking forward to this weekend.

“Fed Cup provides a different setting and it is an exciting event,” Rubin said. “My goal is to get into the top five. I think being No.1 is a possibility. I have the ability to play at that level.”

Note — Billie Jean King has made a change in her rules and is now allowing players to bring their own coaches to the Fed Cup. There are some players, however, who liked King’s previous rule of no personal coaches.

“I think it was good idea to not have coaches,” Shaughnessy said. “I think it brings team unity. I thought it was good idea.”

Last year King and Jennifer Capriati clashed when Capriati brought her coach — her father — to practice sessions. Capriati was adamant about having her coach at practices and was dismissed from the team.

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