Kenin, Serena Drawn for Singles
On Day 1 of Fed Cup in Everett
Victoria Chiesa | February 6, 2020
EVERETT, Wash. - The top two Americans in the WTA rankings will lead the U.S. Fed Cup team against Latvia on the first night of the 2020 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Qualifier.
Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams were chosen as the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players by U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi, and will face 2018 US Open semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, respectively, on Friday night at Angel of the Winds Arena.
Kenin, fresh off her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne, arrived in Everett on Wednesday and had her first practice on Thursday before the draw ceremony, but was already eager to get back on the court after a whirlwind fortnight in Australia by the time she arrived at the pre-event press conference.ADVERTISEMENT
"It's still sinking in slowly, but I'm processing. It was the best two weeks of my life, [but] I love coming to Fed Cup and representing my country," Kenin said. "It's such an honor and a privilege to be a part of this team with my teammates. I'm super excited."
Williams boasts a 13-0 career record in Fed Cup singles matches, but will contest her first since 2015 on Friday night. The all-time great is making her first appearance in the national competition in two years, last playing doubles in Team USA's 3-1 win over the Netherlands in the 2018 quarterfinals—her first competitive action following the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr., in September 2017.
"As a tennis player, you always play for yourself. When you come to this team atmosphere, you have a team captain, you just have a whole team of doctors and physical therapists, even stringers. It's just a really cool thing that we don't experience often as tennis players," Williams said.
"I guess it makes me excited to go out there and do the best that I can for the team and playing for my country, having the opportunity to show and shine in the best way I can on that day."
The 21-year-old Kenin rose to a career-high ranking of world No. 7 in the WTA rankings as a result of her Slam win, while Williams is also currently in the Top 10 at world No. 9. Ostapenko and Sevastova, the current world No. 40 and No. 41, respectively, nonetheless boast a decorated pedigree for the Baltic nation.
Referee Wayne McKewen of Australia and Cassie Franklin, mayor of the city of Everett, conducted Thursday's official draw ceremony, which was also attended by both teams, their respective delegations, and ITF board member and Hall of Famer Mary Pierce, who is on hand as the official representative of the ITF.
Sevastova, a former world No. 11, had her name drawn first, ensuring that she and Kenin would open Friday night's play, with Williams and Ostapenko's match to follow.
While Kenin and Sevastova know each other well, with the American leading the overall head-to-head between the two players, 2-0, Williams and Ostapenko have never played.
The former world No. 5, who owns a Latvian-record 30 wins across singles and doubles in the competition, and Sevastova arrive in Everett as the anchors of the visiting team, as they were selected for all five potential matches by captain Adrians Zguns.
"To play against Serena, I think is a great opportunity to share the court with such a great player," Ostapenko said. "She's done so much for our sport. She was always my idol since I was growing up. Now to play against her, as I said, it's a great opportunity. I'm going to try to enjoy every moment.
"When you play for yourself, it's very different. You just lose a match, and you lose a match [for yourself]. Here, it's only a couple of times a year, so you have to just show your best. You know you are doing it not for yourself, but for your country."
Saturday's reverse singles matches are slated to feature Ostapenko against Kenin, in a match of each country's top players, while Williams and Sevastova could square off in a rematch of that aforementioned US Open semifinal, which was won by Williams, in the fourth rubber.
Should the match come down to a deciding fifth rubber, Rinaldi selected former world No. 1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Alison Riske as Team USA's doubles team—but both captains can make substitutions to their initial selections on Saturday, which could mean an appearance for Fed Cup rookie Coco Gauff, who rounds out the five-member American team.
"I play for the stars and stripes every week. It's very special because Fed Cup is a team event. It makes it a little bit different than obviously our WTA events or the Grand Slams," Mattek-Sands said.
"For me, whether I'm playing US Open or Australian Open, I have an American flag after my name. I'm always proud to be representing the States.
"I think it's exciting, a lot of fun. You know you have your team kind of backing you up. You go into this event knowing that that teamwork makes the dream work."
The U.S. has won five of its last six Fed Cup ties at home, having been beaten by 2019 eventual finalists Australia in the first round in Asheville, N.C., a year ago, 3-2.
The Latvians were winners of six straight ties before losing to Germany in last spring's World Group Playoffs, and Ostapenko and Sevastova each boast 16 singles wins apiece in the competition, also a national record.
Play begins at 7:30 p.m. PT on Friday and 3:30 p.m. PT on Saturday in Everett.