Credit One Bank Invitational, Day 1: Kenin, Fernandez win early

Credit One Bank Invitational, Day 1: Kenin, Fernandez win early

The Australian Open champion dominated countrywoman Alison Riske to put Team Peace on the board first, before the Canadian hit back for Team Kindness Tuesday evening in Charleston, S.C.

Charleston is a favorite stop among players on the WTA tour. For those fortunate enough to take part in the South Carolina staple, warm crowd support, along with first-class hospitality bestowed by tournament staff, easily give entrants a sense of feeling at home during their stay.

On Tuesday, that warmth was still present—shoutout to tournament manager Eleanor Adams for her inspired snack run—but competitors had their first taste of tennis at Daniel Island in the COVID-19 era. Calling one’s lines, picking up towels and balls, and relying on fellow players in the stands for boosts of energy were the rules of the game at the Credit One Bank Invitational, a team event featuring 16 WTA players.

Credit One Bank Invitational

A day earlier, Madison Keys, captain of Team Kindness and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, captain of Team Peace, drafted their respective squads. In the format, match wins begin with a value of one point, but increase every two days to augment pressure and drama once players have match play under their belts by the time the weekend arrives. Tuesday’s lineup sported four singles showdowns—though the final two were postponed, due to weather—though doubles will soon play a pivotal role to the success of each team.

Danielle Collins (Team Peace) leads Amanda Anisimova (Team Kindness), 4-1

Leylah Fernandez (Team Kindness) d. Emma Navarro (Team Peace), 6-4, 6-0
Tied 1-1

Credit One Bank Invitational

Just over a year ago, these two clashed in the girls’ singles final at Roland Garros, an occasion that would see Fernandez rise to the occasion. The Canadian would impressively transition her game to the pro ranks, highlighted by a strong February that saw her beat world No. 5 Belinda Bencic in a Fed Cup Finals qualifier tie and reach the Acapulco final after needing to qualify at the event.

Leading 3-2, Fernandez held in a game spanning more than 10 minutes, a consolidation that would prove to be significant. The 17-year-old staved off a break point in the 10th game to close out the first set, and continued to demonstrate excellent disguise when pulling out her drop shot to keep the other side of the net in check. Fernandez’s ability to open up the court enabled her to gain speed and run away from the University of Virginia recruit.

Speaking with Tracy Austin and Ted Robinson, Fernandez said, "I'm super happy to be able to get the win for Team Kindness. Honestly, it was really hard in the beginning. I know Emma well. In the second set, I just found my groove and everything went in for me."

Sofia Kenin (Team Peace) d. Alison Riske (Team Kindness), 6-1, 6-1
Team Peace leads 1-0

Credit One Bank Invitational

Wind was a factor early. The limited hands on deck took down umbrellas over player benches after a strong gust blew through. Given the conditions, and it being Kenin’s first appearance since triumphing at Lyon, France on indoor hard in early March, her timing was understandably inconsistent in the early goings. It was however, negated by the fact that clay is by far Riske’s least preferred surface, and it would take the world No. 19 five games to get on the board. Last month, Riske competed in the UTR Pro Match Series on hard courts, but today, found herself back at square one after doing most of the scrambling around the court. The Australian Open champion won eight of nine games before double faulting to drop serve for the first time, but quickly regained control, stepping in on her opponent’s serve to quickly secure the first point of the tournament.

"I knew I didn't have a lot of match play after my last tournament, so I just tried to take my time and play my aggressive game," Kenin told Tennis Channel afterward. "I tried to not show it but I'm trying to be a perfectionist. I guess I wanted to win 0 and 0, but it was impossible. I'll take this win."