Henry Wancke | 9th Mar 2020 | 0
Everett | the Sofia and Serena show
© Abbie Parr/Getty Images
Hosts USA jumped to a 2-0 Fed Cup lead over Latvia on Friday after Sofia Kenin notched up a convincing win with the loss of just 4 games and Serena Williams survived a scare.
You’re not just playing for yourself, you’re playing for your team. I also feel like it’s just a different atmosphere because you have your coach next to you… I just want to be able to go out there and do well. You’re playing for your country, it’s not just for you. Serena Williams
21-year old Kenin, the newly crowned Australian Open champion, won the easier rubber despite being tired after travelling from Melbourne to the state of Washington, dispatching Latvia’s No 41-ranked Anastasija Sevastova, 6-2 6-2, in 68 minutes.
“It’s been a long journey. It wasn’t easy,” Kenin said. “But I was super happy to come here and play with the team.
“Sleep-wise was, of course, difficult. I’m used to the time zone. I feel great. Felt great to play.”
23-time Grand Slam winner Williams gave the United States a commanding 2-0, having survived a late wobble to beat 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 7-6(4) 7-6(3) in the final match of the night.
“It’s such a great team, and we got off to a great start,’’ Serena said. “It’s such a great atmosphere. And I think we worked really hard. It was really fun.”
The hard-fought win over Ostapenko improved her perfect record in Fed Cup singles to 14-0, but she needed two tiebreaks and an hour and 46 minutes to do it.
“I’m really proud of being able to get the win for the team,” said Williams, who was ousted in the 3rd round of the Australian Open in her latest bid to match Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles.
Williams appeared poised to finish Ostapenko off after breaking for a 6-5 lead in the second set, but she was broken herself in the next game and dropped the first 2 points of the ensuing tiebreak.
The American then won 5 straight points to take a 5-2 lead in the decider, and Ostapenko double-faulted to give her a match point that Williams seized.
Two double-faults had also been costly for Ostapenko in the first breaker, giving Williams the upper hand after an opening set in which they went toe-to-toe after an early exchange of breaks.
Williams is playing in her first Fed Cup match since 2018, when she played doubles with her sister, Venus, but had not played singles in the competition since 2015.
Kenin will have a chance to seal the tie for the United States when she meets Ostapenko on Saturday, with a place in the finals in Budapest in April on the line.
“I have so much confidence in these girls,” USA Captain Kathy Rinaldi said.
“Obviously, Serena is a GOAT for a reason. She showed that tonight. But I have so much respect and admiration for Serena and Sofia.
“To have Serena, such a strong leader, someone who has done so much for our sports, so much for women in sports, really stepped up today when she needed to, she’s GOAT, no doubt about it. She proved that tonight again.”
Serena is slated to play Sevastova on Saturday after Kenin faces Ostapenko, though matches are subject to change up to an hour before play.
USA’s Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Alison Riske are currently in line to face Ostapenko and Sevastova in the doubles.
“You’re not just playing for yourself, you’re playing for your team,” Serena said of the Fed Cup. “I also feel like it’s just a different atmosphere because you have your coach next to you… I just want to be able to go out there and do well.
“You’re playing for your country, it’s not just for you.”