Serena and Kenin secure victories, Team USA leads Latvia 2-0

Serena and Kenin secure victories, Team USA leads Latvia 2-0

Sofia Kenin steamrolled Anastasija Sevastova, while Serena squeaked past Jelena Ostapenko to give Team USA a commanding lead.

If you thought Sofia Kenin was due for a letdown, think again. The Australian Open champion steamrolled Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 6-2 in just over an hour to give team USA a 1-0 lead.

Kenin’s lightning-quick movement and spot-on anticipation suffocated Sevastova, who simply had no answer for the energetic young American. Kenin took the ball extremely early, and mixed in her supremely effective drop-shot to keep Sevastova off-balance throughout. 

Aspiring players could do well to imitate Kenin, who admitted to manufacturing some of her on court energy. Kenin was understandably exhausted— both physically and mentally— from her whirlwind two-weeks down under.

“I’m still a bit jet-lagged but I knew I needed to play my best to win,” Kenin said after the match. “I knew I was going to be tired but I couldn’t say no to Fed Cup.”

In the second rubber, Serena Williams kept her Fed Cup unbeaten singles streak alive. The 38-year-old willed herself to a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) victory over Jelena Ostapenko— with the help of a raucous Seattle crowd. Serena did not bring her highest level, but what she lacked in execution, she made up for in passion and effort. 

The first set was neck and neck until Ostapenko gifted Williams a costly double fault at 4-5 in the first set tiebreak. Ostapenko then shanked a routine forehand to give Serena the first set.

The second set was more of the same. Ostapenko traded blows with Serena until 5-5, 15-40. The Latvian once again double faulted, gifting Serena the break. Ostapenko appeared defeated, but Serena was unable to capitalize, committing six consecutive unforced errors. Finally, down 0-2 in the second set tiebreak, Serena found her serve— and her championship poise— and reeled off five straight points to take a 5-2 lead.

Serena capitalized after Ostapenko committed her eighth double fault, all of them seemingly in the most pivotal moments. Perhaps Seattle's "Twelfth Man" crowd shook the 22-year-old's nerve.

“I’ve played in front of so many crowds but I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of a crowd this loud,” Serena said after the match. 

Team USA will look to finish off Latvia on Saturday afternoon. Kenin is slated to play Ostapenko, while Serena will take on Sevastova— if Kenin is unable to seal the deal.