Venus Williams Clinches US Fed Cup Victory Over Netherlands to Reach Semis Versus France; Serena Returns
— Fed Cup (@FedCup) February 11, 2018
By Stephanie Neppl
(February 11, 2018) ASHEVILLE, N.C. – As the start of day two’s Fed Cup action in Asheville neared on Sunday, the question of the day remained: “Will Serena Williams play?” Slated to play doubles with Lauren Davis, chatter was rampant as to whether the younger Williams would slide in for singles play.
On Saturday, US Fed Cup Captain Kathy RInaldi said “Obviously we’re going to do what’s best for the team, put us in that winning position. We have four great players, so we feel good about it. I believe in all these girls. It’s a tough decision, but tough decisions have to be made. That’s my job.”
And Captain Rinaldi stuck to the original schedule, sending No. 8 Venus Williams to try and clinch the tie against Richel Hogenkamp.
Williams got off to a fast start against Hogenkamp as she went up 3-0 in the opening set. But the Dutchwoman, with solid serving, broke back and leveled the match at 3-3. Hogenkamp showed no signs of fatigue after her loss to Coco Vandeweghe on Saturday, and showed off her soft touch with a number of drop shots that kept Williams scrambling.
A loud crowd willed Williams to get back on top, but it was the American who got down a break point at 5-5 after hitting a double fault. Williams upped her aggression and was able to hold for 6-5. Hogenkamp stepped up to serve to stay in the set, and after making an error blasted the ball into the stands, warranting a ball abuse warning from the chair umpire. From there, it was all Williams, breaking her opponent at love to take set one 7-5.
The second set was all Williams. She broke to go up 2-1 and took numerous opportunities to get to the net to end points. With yet another break in hand, Williams served for the tie up 5-1, and had a drama-free hold to give the US a 3-0 win over the Netherlands to make the Fed Cup semifinals.
After the match, Venus said “Honestly, I like to think that CoCo wore her [Hogenkamp] down some yesterday. It gave me an opportunity to be able to close it out for the USA. It gave me a lot of pressure for me to close it out and a lot of pressure for her to stay in and I just handled it a little better.”
Venus Williams talked about the win to clinch a spot in the Fed Cup semifinals. “This is an important moment, when you’re playing not just for yourself but your other team members and your captain, for your country. It’s definitely a different kind of pressure.
“I’m really happy with how the team played through tough moments, a new surface, against players we’ve never seen before. Those were all factors. Yeah, I think we’re all just looking forward to the next tie.”
Following Venus Williams’ victory to clinch the Fed Cup tie for the US, Captain Rinaldi delighted the crowd when she announced Williams would play the dead doubles rubber alongside her sister Serena. The crowd enthusiastically cheered on the Williams sisters throughout the match against Demi Schuurs and Lesley Kerkhove, but it was the Netherlands who ended the tie with a 6-2, 6-3 victory.
The elder sister struggled to hold serve, getting broken in all but one of her service games as she seemed to lack some of the energy she had earlier in singles action. Serena, on the flip side, held in all but one service game as she showed glimpses of her amazing serve and groundstrokes. It wasn’t enough to overcome the strong Dutch team, and they were more solid throughout the match, hitting 15 winners through the match versus 7 from the Americans.
“We actually definitely give credit to the other team,” Venus said after the match. “They just couldn’t miss. I think they had not too much pressure, because the tie had been won, so… In that case, you got to give them credit for that. Sometimes it happens. I think most thankfully we had won the tie and done our job. That was icing on the cake for us.”
“For the next tie, I think we all are excited about playing. I mean, I know Coco has like this streak going, so I think she’ll be the first one to say, Let me in.
“The great part is that there’s so much depth in American tennis now. All the ladies are playing amazing under the flag, which is not easy to do. It’s great to have options.”
Serena, who was playing her first competitive match since winning the Australian Open title in 2017, talked about being back on court after having a baby.
“It felt really good to be back on the court,” said the 23-time major winner. “I’ve been training. It’s just exciting to be out there. A lot of not nerves, but anticipation for myself. That’s good. I think that’s normal.”
“It was definitely more than I expected. I didn’t expect to have such emotions and such feelings, even though you hear about it all the time. But I definitely felt way more emotions, just a connection that I never thought I would ever feel.”
“I think if I walk out there with low expectations, then I need to stop doing what I do. So that’s never going to happen for me. I’m always going to have the best and highest expectations for myself. I’m okay with that because that’s just who I am.”
“It’s an incredible learning experience,” Serena said when asked about traveling with husband and baby. “I didn’t manage my time well, but I was thinking about it in the future how to manage it better. This is literally my first time traveling with the baby and everything. I’m going to try to do better. It was hard. It was the first time for me.”
On being part of the Fed Cup this weekend, Serena said: “First of all, I think I was just really happy with the team, especially Venus and Coco really playing well, getting those matches, getting those wins. Really just listening to Kathy, who also has done a great job with the team.
“I don’t know. I honestly feel better than I thought I was going to feel. I feel like I didn’t expect to play, you know, like that for me. I feel like I’m on the right track.”
Asked about her expectations for the weekend, Serena noted: “I really don’t know. I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe that’s why I felt like I did better. I didn’t expect to, I don’t know, have that much power on my serves, even though they didn’t go in.
“It’s just a start. I feel like that’s a very good step in the right direction.”
The US team will next face France in the Fed Cup semifinals, April 21-22 at a site to be determined in France.
Singles A: Venus Williams (USA) def. Arantxa Rus (NED), 6-1, 6-4
Singles B: CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) def. Richel Hogenkamp (NED), 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3
Singles C: Venus Williams (USA) def. Richel Hogenkamp (NED) 7-5, 6-1
Singles D: CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) vs. Arantxa Rus (NED) not played
Doubles: Lesley Kerkhove (NED) / Demi Schuurs (NED)
def. Serena Williams (USA) / Venus Williams (USA) 6-2, 6-3
Stephanie Neppl is in Asheville covering the Fed Cup tie between the US and the Netherlands for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.