Stephens and Anisimova rally for wins, but Team Peace leads 14-10

Stephens and Anisimova rally for wins, but Team Peace leads 14-10

Sloane saved three set points in her victory; Amanda saved a match point in hers.

After four days of play at the Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston, S.C. Bethanie Mattek-Sands' Team Peace leads Madison Keys' Team Kindness, 14-10. The first team to reach 25 points will win the competition; eight three-point matches will be played over the weekend, including a doubles-only Sunday.

Below is a recap of Friday's action, in reverse chronological order.

Sloane Stephens (Team Kindness) d. Eugenie Bouchard (Team Peace), 6-3, 7-6 (7)
>>> Team Peace leads Team Kindness, 14-10

Stephens kept Team Kindness within striking distance. (Credit One Bank Invitational)

It wasn't a must-win match, given the imminent increase of points on offer, but Stephens' win over Bouchard stopped the bleeding for Team Kindness, which began Friday trailing by two points and fell behind by as many as six.

Bouchard, one of the pleasant surprises this week, should have forced a match tiebreaker after earning three set points in a second set she once led 5-2. But Stephens broke serve in a 12-minute game, and avoided further drama by prevailing in a standard tiebreaker.

Here's the order of play for Saturday—the final day of singles competition—with all matches worth three points and airing live on Tennis Channel:

4 p.m. ET
Sofia Kenin (Team Peace) vs. Madison Keys (Team Kindness)

Ajla Tomljanovic/Caroline Dolehide (Team Peace) vs. Leylah Fernandez/Monica Puig (Team Kindness)

Sloane Stephens (Team Kindness) vs. Jennifer Brady (Team Peace)

Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Team Peace) vs. Shelby Rogers (Team Kindness)

Danielle Collins (Team Peace) d. Victoria Azarenka (Team Kindness), 6-1, 7-5
>>> Team Peace leads Team Kindness, 14-8

There have been some lopsided stretches of play this week in Charleston, but none more so than the first set of this match. Azarenka, who has played fewer tour matches in 2020 (one) than Collins has exhibition matches since the pandemic (she competed in May's UTR Pro Match Series), was unable to make any inroads on the American's serve. At one point, the two-time Australian Open champion lost 21 of 24 points while returning.

Collins, whose own breakthrough came in Melbourne, did so well on her serve—a solid but not smothering part of her game—that she was able to take more chances on her return games. With Collins' form at a much higher level than Azarenka's, it was one-way traffic.

Azarenka must be commended for her play in the second set, fighting her way to some tough holds and forcing Collins to serve out the match. And then, without having ceded a break point all match, Collins felt the nerves. No fans, no pressure—right?

Vika broke—but Collins broke right back, and this time, she didn't blink with the match on her racquet. Instead, she yelled a 'COME ON!!!' that would have been heard even if a sold-out crowd was cheering alongside.

"It was a good match overall," said Collins. "I lost my serve a little bit there at the end."

Emma Navarro/Jennifer Brady (Team Peace) d. Shleby Rogers (USA)/Alison Riske (Team Kindness), 6-2, 6-3
>>> Team Peace leads Team Kindness, 12-8

Team Peace has now won four of the six two-point matches (and was a point away from winning a fifth). Rogers, a Charleston native, and Riske, a new resident of the charming South Carolina city, were surprisingly run off their de facto home court by their less-experienced opponents. Navarro—also a Charlestonian—and Brady were quick out of the gates and the more aggressive tandem. With tenacity and accuracy, they paid off Mattek-Sands' faith in selection.

Ranked outside the Top 500, Navarro nearly upset world No. 19 Riske in singles on Thursday.

"I've been training with Emma leading up to the tournament," said Riske after the match. "The world better watch out for her—she's coming. I personally think she's the real deal."

This result may have been a surprise to many, but perhaps not to Riske.

Amanda Anisimova (Team Kindness) d. Caroline Dolehide (Team Peace) 5-7, 7-5, [10-2]
>>> Team Peace leads Team Kindness, 10-8

Anisimova saved her best for last against fellow American Dolehide. (Credit One Bank Invitational)

Staring at a loss to Dolehide, and a 12-6 deficit for her team, Anisimova was in a precarious position. It was also right where she’s wanted to be for months.

“That’s why I miss being out here, just trying to face challenges and get yourself back together mentally as quick as possible,” said the 2019 French Open semifinalist, who hasn’t had much competitive play since mid-March.

Down a match point at 7-5, 5-3, only quick would do for Anisimova, who struggled for patches against the hard-hitting 21-year-old. But with the flick of a wrist, Anisimova fired a forehand down the line for a winner, and the entire match changed.

“I’m just going to make every ball in the court,” Anisimova said, “and then we'll see what happens.”

Anisimova would go on to win 25 of the match's final 28 points, leading to a four-point swing in the overall competition that could prove pivotal.

Ajla Tomljanovic (Team Peace) d. Monica Puig (Team Kindness), 7-5, 6-2
>>> Team Peace leads Team Kindness, 10-6

Tomljanovic continued Team Peace's surge in Charleston with a straight-sets win. (Credit One Bank Invitational)

The point values have risen at the Credit One Bank Invitational, and Team Peace is rising to the occasion. With Tomljanovic’s win in a match held over from Thursday, her team, captained by Bethanie Mattek-Sands, has won three of the four two-point matches contested so far.

Madison Keys’ side will have opportunities to make up ground, but with three-point play beginning Saturday, it can't afford to get too far behind, too deep into the six-day event.