Action is hotting up in Charleston where the gals are contesting the Credit One Bank Invitational and while Sloane Stephens and Amanda Anisimova rallied for Team Kindness wins on Day 4 of the team competition, Team Peace extended its lead to 14-10 overnight.
It was a good match overall. I think I lost my serve a little bit there at the end, but I'm just getting used to playing matches again, and happy to pull off the W for the team. Danielle Collins
In her first singles match of the week, Stephens gave Team Kindness a much-needed victory in the final match of the day, defeating Eugenie Bouchard in a battle of former Top 5 players.
Danielle Collins, though, wrapped up a strong day for Team Peace as they won 3 out of Friday’s 5 matches to hold onto the lead.
At the start of play on Friday, Ajla Tomljanovic (Team Peace) defeated Monica Puig (Team Kindness), 7-5 6-2, in the match held over from Thursday’s day of extended play that advanced Team Peace’s lead over Team Kindness to 10-6.
Captained by Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Team Peace won 3 of the 4 two-point matches contested so far, but Madison Keys’ side will have opportunities to make up ground with 3-point play beginning on Saturday.
18-year old Anisimova saved a match point en route to her 5-7 7-5 [10-2] victory over fellow American Caroline Dolehide after staring at defeat when she trailed 5-7, 3-5 against her hard-hitting opponent.
In the second match of the day, she pulled Team Kindness back within 2 points after serving for the opening frame at 5-4, but Dolehide broke the teenager to love to level the set and claimed 2 more games in succession to snatch the one-set lead after an hour of play.
Dolehide then held match point at 5-4 in the second set, but the 2019 French Open semi-finalist escaped that game, blasting a forehand down the line to save it and holding for 5-5.
“I’m just going to make every ball in the court,” Anisimova said, “and then we’ll see what happens.”
Turning up the heat, Anisimova cruised through the remainder of the set and dominating the decisive match tiebreak.
All told, Anisimova won 25 of the last 28 points of the match.
“I just tried to relax in the second set, and just be more consistent,” Anisimova said on-court after her win, which pulled Team Kindness closer overall, down just 10-8 to Team Peace. “That’s why I missed being out here, just trying to face challenges and get yourself back together mentally as quick as possible.
“I think that was a great opportunity for me today to work on.”
The following doubles match went Team Peace’s way, as Jennifer Brady & Emma Navarro powered past Alison Riske & Shelby Rogers, 6-2 6-3, in an all-American affair.
Rogers, a Charleston native, and Riske, a new resident of the charming South Carolina city, were surprisingly run off their de facto home court by their less-experienced opponents.
Navarro, who is also a Charlestonian, and her partner were quick out of the gates and the more aggressive tandem.
With tenacity and accuracy, Brady & Navarro needed just an hour and a quarter to clinch the straight-set victory, paying off Mattek-Sands’ faith in selection, and put Team Peace up 12-8 going into the evening’s singles matches.
Ranked outside the Top 500, Navarro nearly upset World No 19 Riske in singles on Thursday.
“I’ve been training with Emma leading up to the tournament,” said Riske after that match. “The world better watch out for her—she’s coming. I personally think she’s the real deal.”
This result may have been a surprise to many, but perhaps not to Riske.
Another American, Danielle Collins, took out former World No 1 Victoria Azarenka, 6-1 7-5, who has played just one WTA match in 2020 before the coronavirus shutdown.
The rust showed as Collins raced through the opening set, winning 7 straight games on the way to a 6-1, 2-0 lead before wobbling slightly at the last when she dropped her serve on match point at 5-4 before promptly breaking back to finish the win.
Azarenka must be commended for her play in the second set, fighting her way to some tough holds and forcing Collins to serve out the match when, without relinquishing a break point all match, the American felt the nerves and Vika broke.
“It was a good match overall,” Collins said in her on-court post-match interview, after giving Team Peace a commanding 14-8 lead. “I think I lost my serve a little bit there at the end, but I’m just getting used to playing matches again, and happy to pull off the W for the team.”
It put Team Peace up by 6 points on a day where each win earned the victor’s team two points.
Stephens then finished off the night with a hard-fought win over Eugenie Bouchard, 6-3 7-6(7), earning Team Kindness a much-needed 2 points just before midnight.
The 2017 US Open champion needed to erase break deficits in each set before overcoming the Canadian in a battle of former Top 5 players.
In the hour-and-a-quarter-long second set, Stephens was forced to fend off 3 set points in order to avoid a decisive match tiebreak.
Bouchard broke Stephens to love in the first game of the encounter, as strong hitting from the forehand wing led the Canadian to an early 3-1 lead.
Stephens, though, found her rhythm midway through the set and reached level footing with a break for 3-3, moving on to slam a forehand winner to clinch a second break for 5-3, and winning a 5th consecutive game to wrap up the first-set comeback.
A series of breaks in the second ended with Bouchard up 5-2, and the 2014 Wimbledon finalist was able to serve for the set at 5-3.
In that 12-minute game, she staved off 2 break points before earning her first set point with a forehand winner down the line, but Bouchard saw that chance, and a second one, disappear, and Stephens was able to grasp 3 more break points.
The American was unable to convert any of those, and after Bouchard finished off a gruelling rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand winner, she claimed a 3rd set point, which also was squandered with a netted unforced error, and Stephens finally converted her 6th break point to pull back on serve at 5-4.
Two more late breaks pushed the duo into a closely contested second-set tiebreak, where 2 match points for Stephens went begging before the American earned a 3rd with an error-forcing forehand.
This time Stephens closed out the breaker, 9-7, with a backhand winner down the line.
Team Peace, though, goes into Saturday’s encounters with a healthy 14-10 lead in the team event on the green clay courts of Daniel Island, home of the Volvo Car Open.
Nevertheless, the event is far from over, as each of the weekend matches will be worth a whopping three points for the victorious team.
The first team to reach 25 points will win the competition; 8 3-point matches will be played over the weekend, including a doubles-only Sunday.