Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and 23-time major winner Serena Williams lead USA into battle against Latvia in the first round of Fed Cup qualifiers this weekend.
USA ?? vs Latvia ?? Match Info
Dates: February 7-8
Venue: Angel of the Winds Arena, Everett, WA
Surface: Indoor Hard
Time: Day 1 – 7.30pm local time (3.30am GMT), Day 2 – 3.30pm local (11.30pm GMT)
USA vs Latvia Teams
?? Sofia Kenin, Serena Williams, Alison Riske, Coco Gauff, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Kathy Rinaldi (captain)
?? Jelena Ostapenko, Anastasija Sevastova, Diana Marcinkevica, Daniela Vismane, Adrians Zguns (captain)
USA vs Latvia Draw
Friday February 7
Rubber 1: Sofia Kenin (USA) vs Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)
Rubber 2: Serena Williams (USA) vs Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)
Saturday February 8
Rubber 3: Sofia Kenin (USA) vs Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)
Rubber 4: Serena Williams (USA) vs Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)
Rubber 5: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Alison Riske (USA) vs Jelena Ostapenko/Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)
NB: Player nominations can change until an hour before the start of play.
Sofia Kenin (??) vs Anastasija Sevastova (??), 7.30pm local time (3.30am GMT)
Less than a week after winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, Kenin is back in action as she aims to help guide USA into the Fed Cup Finals in Budapest in April.
Kenin played some incredible tennis to triumph in Melbourne, especially in the semi-finals and final against Ash Barty and Garbine Muguruza respectively, and she will be looking to continue that sparkling form when she represents her country this weekend.
The 21-year-old hasn’t played much Fed Cup yet – she has a 1-3 record, with her last match resulting in a loss to Barty 12 months ago. However, Kenin put in a gallant performance for USA in the 2018 final against Czech Republic when she was still ranked outside the top 50 – and after making the swift transition to Grand Slam champion and top 10 star in a little over a season, safe to say Kenin will be in her element in this sort of environment.
While Kenin is in the form of her life, the same can’t be said for Sevastova, who has won just one set in 2020 and only one match dating back to the U.S. Open in September last year.
A former top 15 player, Sevastova has slipped to No. 41 in the world due to her current poor form. The Latvian actually lost to Kenin in the opening round of Brisbane to launch her season, while she’s since suffered opening round defeats to Donna Vekic and Ajla Tomljanovic at Adelaide and the Australian Open. None of those losses are worrying by any means, but when you look back further and see she’s only tasted victory once in the last five months, then there might be cause for concern.
Sevastova has an excellent 16-5 singles record in Fed Cup, but she’ll do well away from home to challenge the Australian Open champion on Friday.
Serena Williams (??) vs Jelena Ostapenko (??), 9.00pm local time (5.00am GMT)
Serena isn’t used to being the No. 2 player for her country in Fed Cup, but that’s what’s happening this weekend after Kenin leapfrogged her in the rankings following her exploits in Melbourne.
Unfortunately for Serena, her Grand Slam woes continued at the Australian Open, where she was eliminated in shock fashion by China’s Qiang Wang in the third round – the same player she crushed for the loss of just one game in 45 minutes at the U.S. Open last year.
After coming into the tournament on the back of her first title since becoming a mother in Auckland, it’s becoming apparent that Serena is struggling with the pressure of capturing a 24th Grand Slam title.
But, for the time being, her focus is on the team/country and not herself – which could spell doom for Latvia when you realise Serena is a perfect 13-0 in Fed Cup singles matches. Granted, the 38-year-old hasn’t played a singles match since 2015, but she did come back for doubles in 2018 against the Netherlands, where she teamed with sister Venus to win.
It will be intriguing to see how Serena fares in her first Fed Cup singles match in five years – and it will also be interesting to witness how Jelena Ostapenko performs in this sort of environment against her idol.
Ostapenko has suffered a fall from grace since winning the 2017 French Open in blistering scenes, struggling with her consistency and thus ability to lock down a top-tier ranking. However, since linking up with former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, Ostapenko has showed signs of returning to her best, winning the title in Luxembourg to finish 2019.
Forced to deal with the tragic death of her father in the off-season, Ostapenko withdrew from Auckland before playing her first tournament of 2020 at the Australian Open, where she beat Liudmila Samsonova before falling in a tight match to sixth seed Belinda Bencic.
Ostapenko has a 16-11 Fed Cup singles record, but needless to say, facing Serena on American soil is the toughest test of her Fed Cup career to date.