Sunday, February 9, 2020

Kenin, Ostapenko, Sevastova--a recipe for Fed Cup thrills


Toward the end of last year, Alona Ostapenko began to look like herself again. Now, teamed with coach Marion Bartoli, the 2017 French Open champion is looking more herself than ever (that includes the parts that need work, but I'll maintain hope about those), and she was in full flight this weekend in Everett, Washington when Latvia faced off against the USA in Fed Cup World Group competition.

Ostapenko lost her singles rubber against Serena Williams, but the scoreline--7-6, 7-6--says a lot. The Latvian star's other single rubber was against Australian Open champion and world number 7 Sofia Kenin. I had been looking forward to this. Just last week, I wrote that Kenin reminded me of Ostapenko in that they both have an automatic reset button when things go wrong on court. This is a mental gift that many players just can't seem to attain.


Ostapenko won that rubber, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. The talented Anastasija Sevastova lost to Kenin in straight sets, but came back the next day to defeat Serena Williams (her first-ever Fed Cup singles loss) 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 in a real thriller. But in the deciding doubles rubber, the USA--represented by Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands--handily defeated Ostapenko and Savastova 6-4, 6-0.

Here are the results of the other World Group ties:

Belarus def. Netherlands, 3-2
Russia def. Romania, 3-2
Germany def. Brazil, 3-0 (4-0 with dead rubber)
Spain def. Japan, 3-0 (3-1 with dead rubber)
Switzerland def. Canada, 3-1
Belgium def. Kazakhstan, 3-1
Slovakia def. Great Britain, 3-1

There were some notable upsets. Sara Sorribes Tormo defeated world number 10 Naomi Osaka 6-0, 6-3. Afterwards, Osaka remarked that “For me, I’m kind of dealing with some stuff and I couldn’t mentally get into the match. It’s sort of… my fault.” Also upset was world number 5 Belinda Bencic, who lost in straight sets to 17-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez.

Those of us who live in the USA were out of luck--all ties outside the U.S. were blocked on Fed Cup TV (which we didn't need to watch the USA tie). I'm still waiting to hear back on whether the April ties will be blocked, so I don't know whether to cancel my subscription (which was useless this weekend).

I'm also not at all thrilled with the new format, and doubt that I ever will be.

Finally, there was this!

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