The USA versus Latvia Fed Cup Qualifier hinged on the doubles after both Serena Williams and Kenin were stunned in their singles rubbers by Anastasija Sevastova and Jelena Ostapenko respectively, as Latvia levelled the tie at 2-2 in Seattle.
I am so incredibly proud. I love these girls. It's been an incredible couple of days. We had some hard-fought matches today. Latvia is a tough team. They came out ready and played well today. But we finished it in a strong fashion and I couldn't be any more proud of my entire team.' Kathy Rinaldi
It took a deciding doubles to take the USA through to the Fed Cup Finals in Budapest in April when Kenin combined with Bethanie Mattek-Sands to defeat Ostapenko & Sevastova, 6-4 6-0.
“I was ready to fight for the team,” said Kenin, who showed no ill effects of her title win in Washington this week. “And we got the job done and I was fired up.
“I was looking forward to the doubles. This is a great opportunity to represent my country, and especially with Bethanie. We’ve had great times together.
“I knew it was going to be a tough match but I was ready to fight out there.”
Former French Open champion Ostapenko kept Latvia alive with a 6-3 2-6 6-2 upset against Kenin in just under 2 hours after the Americans went into the Day 2 with a 2-0 lead.
“Honestly it’s very special to play for my country and I was just trying my best,” said Ostapenko, who raced to a 3-0 lead against Kenin and broke her again in the 8th game on the way to winning the first set. “I was fighting until the last point.
“I knew it was going to be a very tough match and the key thing for me was just to play aggressive.”
That approach may have contributed to her 49 unforced errors, and Kenin made the most of them in the second set, fending off a break point in the first game then pulling away to take a 4-0 lead on the way to forcing a third set.
That featured 6 breaks of serve, while Ostapenko held for 3-1 and, finally, held in the last game, sealing it on her second match point.
Sevastova then inflicted a shock first Fed Cup singles loss on Williams, 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(4), using her powerful serve to deliver aces at key moments, and her precision forehand to end Serena’s perfect streak of 14 wins after a 2hour 25minute marathon.
Williams, who looked fatigued in her first Fed Cup singles match in 4 years, bounced back from losing the first set by cruising through the second in 33 minutes, but she was outplayed on the big points in the second tiebreak.
“We were playing in the USA so obviously the crowd was going to be for Serena,” Sevastova said of her win at the Angel of the Wings arena.
“I just tried to give it my best.”
Williams said: “It was a really intense match. There were lots of points and lots of running.”
As spectacular as Latvia’s comeback was, however, USA’s doubles duo competed spectacularly in the deciding rubber.
Mattek-Sands & Kenin sealed the first set of the doubles and whipped the Latvian pair in the second.
“I was cheering the squad on,” Mattek-Sands said. “We had a lot of momentum from yesterday being up 2-0. So for me it was all about energy.”
“I am so incredibly proud,” USA Captain Kathy Rinaldi said.” I love these girls.
“It’s been an incredible couple of days. We had some hard-fought matches today.
“Latvia is a tough team. They came out ready and played well today. But we finished it in a strong fashion and I couldn’t be any more proud of my entire team.”
USA now head to Budapest, Hungary for the Finals, from 14-19 April, the last of the 12 nations to book their spot, but by no means the least – they have lifted the Fed Cup trophy 18 previous times, the most ever.
“I’m super excited,” Rinaldi added. “We are very happy to have won this match against a tough opponent.
“The way they play, they could easily have been contenders for Budapest too. So we should take confidence from this match and I’m really looking forward to April.”