Photo (c) Fernando Colon /USTA
Fed Cup – U.S. and Australia are Tied, 1-1
(February 9, 2019) The U.S. and Australia Fed Cup teams split their matches on day one to set the stage for a potentially dramatic Sunday in Asheville, N.C., as a pivotal matchup of Top-20 players looms for the Americans and Aussies, currently tied at one-all in this Fed Cup First Round tie.
World No. 14 Ashleigh Barty and No. 17 Madison Keys each won in singles on Saturday to notch a point apiece for their respective countries, and the two will play each other first on Sunday in a momentous third singles match.
Barty gave the Australians the lead with a 6-1, 7-6(2) win over No. 37 Sofia Kenin in the first singles. Barty hit 10 aces despite a first-serve percentage of 48 and also converted 3 of 6 break point chances compared to 1of 4 for Kenin. Barty also made only 16 unforced errors, compared to Kenin’s 25.
Kenin saved two match points when Barty served for the match at 6-1, 5-4, fighting to get to a tie break. “I didn’t have such a great start at the beginning,” Kenin said. “At least I was able to pick it up and not just lose 1-1, get off the court. I put up a fight. I’m happy I was able to somehow pick up my game and play better.”
“She served unbelievable,” the world No. 37 said. “It’s a really tough serve. It was probably 150 miles an hour or something. She’s known for aces and everything. It was tough. Also to keep fighting, not give up. I’m in the match. At least I didn’t lose 6-1, 6-1. It was 7-6. Just a few points here and there, things didn’t go my way.”
“I think I was all of two or three centimeters away from serving that out,” Barty admitted. “I missed a serve on my match point. Yeah, got a little bit patchy. I think my response at 6-5 was the most pleasing thing, knowing I came back out straightaway, moved on, kept my spots on serve, got back in control.”
“It’s always a bonus going up 1-0, knowing you’ve kind of got your foot in the door a little bit. In saying that, for us it doesn’t really matter who plays first.”
Keys leveled the tie for the US with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Kim Birrell, ranked No. 157. Keys won 82 percent of her first-serve points and hit 11 forehand winners in a show of form that portends excitement for Sunday’s first singles match.
“My biggest focus was getting out there and getting a good start, obviously wanting to get a point for USA,” Keys noted after the win. “After Sonia came back and fought her absolutely hardest, I knew even though we didn’t get the win, we definitely had the crowd obviously. Just wanted to keep it going, do everyone on the USA team proud.”
“Obviously Maddie played really well today,” Birrell said. S”he’s been inside the top 20 for a long time now. She goes deep in slams. There’s a reason for that. I think she’s a really great player. Yeah, I think she’s played really well today. I did as best as I could. But yeah, the weight behind her shot was definitely different to anything I’ve really felt before. I’m just going to take it as another experience.
Keys and Barty will square off against one another at 1 p.m. in the matchup of each country’s No. 1 players for this tie. Keys won their only previous match, in the first round of the 2017 French Open, but conditions on the indoor hard court inside Asheville’s U.S. Cellular Center surely will play faster than the red clay of Roland Garros.
Ashleigh is going to be incredibly tough,” Keys said. “She obviously had a really good start to her season already. She had a really good year last year. She’s playing some of the best tennis. She’s going to compete on top of all of that. I’m going to go back and listen to Kathy when she tells me what to do, then go out and do my best to do it tomorrow
“I think they’re both going to really push and stretch each other,” said Australian captain Alicia Molik. “You have two big hitters, heavy ball strikers. I think that’s the first thing that stands out. We know Ash well for her differences in her game, the way she mixes it up. It’s a ball strikers’ court. It’s pretty slow, as Kim experienced. I think they’re going to bring out the best in each other. That’s what you want day two, the No. 1’sgoing at it. It’s going to be really interesting.”
Kenin and Birrell are then scheduled to play the fourth singles match, but each captain may make substitutions to their lineups tomorrow. U.S captain Kathy Rinaldi still has world No. 23 Danielle Collins at her disposal, and Australian captain Alicia Molik has world No. 47 Daria Gavrilova available.
Saturday’s attendance was 5,212, a sellout.
RESULTS / ORDER OF PLAY
Ashleigh Barty (AUS) d. Sofia Kenin (USA), 6-1, 7-6(2)
Madison Keys (USA) d. Kim Birrell (AUS), 6-2, 6-2
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Madison Keys (USA) vs. Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
Sofia Kenin (USA) vs. Kim Birrell (AUS)
Danielle Collins / Nicole Melichar (USA) vs. Ashleigh Barty / Daria Gavriolva (AUS)