Sofia Kenin probably shouldn’t have admitted she was tired after her victory yesterday. At least not right in front of Jelena Ostapenko, who raised her energy level en route to a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 victory over Kenin.
The 22-year-old Latvian raced to a 6-3 first set victory, completely overpowering the newly minted Australian Open champion. Ostapenko let out a massive roar after winning the first. Perhaps the roar woke up Kenin, who immediately raised her level and cruised to a 6-2 second set victory.
But it was all Ostapenko in the third, however, as Kenin clearly ran out of gas. Ostapenko played fearless tennis throughout, ripping 34 winners compared to Kenin’s 14 en route to a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 victory.
Ostapenko’s backhand was by far the best shot on the court. Kenin will have to get used to playing with a target on her back in the 2020 season.
In the fourth rubber, Serena Williams started sluggish once again, dropping her serve twice in the first three games. Anastasija Sevastova capitalized on Serena’s poor form and raced to a 5-2 lead. But Sevastova was unable to put the nail in the coffin, and the raucous Seattle crowd willed Serena back in the match. Sevastova won the set 7-6 (5), but Serena retained some of her momentum and cruised to a 6-3 second set.
The third set was a battle from start to finish, with Sevastova pulling off the massive upset to defeat Serena 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (4). This was Serena's first ever Fed Cup singles defeat.
In the deciding fifth rubber, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Kenin rose to the occasion, dominating Ostapenko and Sevastova 6-4, 6-0 to keep Team USA's Fed Cup championship hopes alive. Kenin and Mattek-Sands were the aggressors, applying constant pressure throughout the match.
Mattek-Sands is the doubles specialist, and proved to be invaluable to Team USA's success, but Kenin impressed as well. The two have had success on the WTA tour together, and their experience advantage was apparent.
Look out Budapest…Team USA is heading to the Fed Cup Finals. ????????@SofiaKenin and @matteksands bring us home in the 5th rubber, taking down Ostapenko and Sevastova 6-4, 6-0 and coming out 3-2 over Team Latvia.#FedCup pic.twitter.com/FPilBtFUS5— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) February 9, 2020
The importance of the pro-American “12th Man” Pacific Northwestern crowd can’t be overstated. If this tie was in Latvia, or even at a neutral site, things could have gone very differently for Team USA.