With rain having the last word on the first two days of the Credit One Bank Invitational, playing catch-up was the name of the game for Team Peace and Team Kindness on Thursday. It was also the first day players would compete for double the rewards, once Wednesday's suspended one-point match-ups were completed. Two-point match wins would come into effect—and prove significant—as the two teams found themselves within a point of each other to begin Day 3.
When the day finally ended, after 11 hours of play (and not a drop of rain), Team Peace leads, 8-6, its two-point edge thanks to doubles. The discipline, which will be played entirely on the final day, was part of team captain Bethanie Mattek-Sands' thought process when she drafted her team—one that, on paper, appeared to be the weaker side. But the five-time Grand Slam doubles champion got more out her selection of Sofia Kenin than just a singles star. She got her doubles partner, with the two having played four tournaments in 2020 before the tours shut down.
They picked up right where they left off in Charleston, overcoming extremely talented opposition in Madison Keys and Victoria Azarenka. Mattek-Sands and Kenin won the first set 6-2 and, despite a five-game rut in the second set, won the match tiebreaker, 10-7.
Kenin and Mattek-Sands give Team Peace a threat in singles and doubles. (Credit One Bank Invitational)
"The best combination for Bethanie is a very solid baseliner," said Lindsay Davenport, and Kenin is just that. During one rally in the opening set, the Australian Open champion traded backhands with Azarenka—an undesirable situation under most circumstances—with Mattek-Sands calmly waiting for the right time to poach. With Vika unable to break Kenin down, Mattek-Sands did exactly as she planned, and Team Kindness soon found itself down by another break.
The victory concluded a day in which the teams split the six matches, but Team Peace won two of the three two-pointers.
Jennifer Brady provided some early padding for Team Peace by turning in an impressive effort against Azarenka to claim the day's opening point. Brady stormed ahead, 6-3, 6-2, to brush aside the former world No. 1.
In a doubles clash carried over from the previous night, Amanda Anisimova and Sloane Stephens closed the gap back to one for the Keys-led Team Kindness. The Americans trailed, 6-4, 0-1, against Eugenie Bouchard and Danielle Collins, and despite failing to consolidate a break lead on four occasions in the second set—including at 5-4—they edged ahead to prevail, 4-6, 7-6 (5) [10-7]. The win saw Anisimova contribute her second point for her team.
Credit One Bank Invitational
Keys, last year's Volvo Car Open champion in Charleston, then drew her side even. The 2017 US Open held off Caroline Dolehide, 6-1, 6-7 (6) [10-4], in the competition's final one-point match, before Thursday's originally scheduled matches were due to begin.
"That was up and down," Keys laughed afterward with Tennis Channel. "I haven't played a match in a really long time. I was definitely really nervous, and think that obviously showed, but really happy to get a win and another point for my team."
After squandering a break at 4-3 in the second set, and later a 5-1 advantage and two match points at 6-4 in the tiebreaker, Keys recovered nicely in the match tiebreak. This time around, Keys didn't waste a 5-1 lead, instead blowing past her countrywoman thanks to much cleaner striking from the baseline.
"She started making a lot more balls and making me play. On my part, I slowed down my feet and was kind of waiting for her to give me points and then she wasn't," Keys assessed. "I started getting frustrated and I think that snowballed a little bit. I was really happy to bounce back after that second set tiebreaker. All in all, things to work on but not too bad for a first match."
The first two-point match turned out to be Team Kindness' third match win in a row, but it was far closer than most expected. Team Peace's Emma Navarro is almost 500 WTA ranking spots behind Alison Riske (No. 504 vs. No. 19), but little separated the two. The 2019 French Open junior runner-up, who has lived in Charleston for nearly a decade, shook off a close first-set loss to hang with the veteran and eventually force a 10-point match tiebreaker. In it, Riske ran out to a 5-1 lead, then lost the next five points—but recovered in time to prevent a major upset.
"I've been training with Emma leading up to the tournament," said Riske after her 7-6 (5), 4-6, [10-7] win. "The world better watch out for her—she's coming. I personally think she's the real deal."
Alison Riske won just two games in her opening match, but prevailed in a match tiebreaker on Thursday night. (Credit One Bank Invitational)
Another rising star, Leylah Fernandez, followed on the green-clay court. Like Navarro, she was undone by a more seasoned opponent—this one her compatriot, Team Peace's Eugenie Bouchard.
Down 4-1 in the first set, Bouchard reeled off five consecutive games. Her 6-4, 6-3 win wasn't as straightforward as it sounds—the first set alone lasted an hour—but it leveled the competition at 6-6.
Back on even footing, Mattek-Sands and Kenin peaced out as winners at 1:15 a.m.
The length of the day's matches, combined with the packed schedule, forced the postponement of the Tomljanovic-Puig match, originally scheduled to end the day's play.
Thursday's Schedule & Results
Jennifer Brady (Team Peace) d. Victoria Azarenka (Team Kindness), 6-3, 6-2
Sloane Stephens/Amanda Anisimova (Team Kindness) d. Eugenie Bouchard/Danielle Collins (Team Peace), 4-6, 7-6 (5) [10-7]
Madison Keys (Team Kindness) d. Caroline Dolehide (Team Peace), 6-1, 6-7 (6) [10-4]
Alison Riske (Team Kindness) d. Emma Navarro (Team Peace), 7-6 (5), 4-6, [10-7]
Eugenie Bouchard (Team Peace) d. Leylah Fernandez (Team Kindness), 6-4, 6-3
Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Sofia Kenin (Team Peace) d. Victoria Azarenka/Madison Keys (Team Kindness), 6-2, 1-6, [10-7]
Two-Point Match; Team Peace leads Team Kindness, 8-6
Ajla Tomljanovic (Team Peace) vs. Monica Puig (Team Kindness)
After a great day of tennis, we are looking forward to these wonderful matches tomorrow. Don't forget live coverage starts at 4:00 pm EST on @TennisChannel. #CreditOneBankInvitational @CreditOneBank @WTA @MyUTR @MUSChealth pic.twitter.com/dp2IOH3W3m— Volvo Car Open (@VolvoCarOpen) June 26, 2020