Barty slows Keys to put Aussies on brink at Fed Cup
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Madison Keys picked up where she left off in Sunday’s Fed Cup headliner against Ashleigh Barty, but the Australian No. 1 fought back from a 3-0 first-set deficit to take control of the match and the tie for her country. Her 6-4, 6-1 victory puts Team Australia on the brink of the semifinals in their first World Group appearance since 2015.
After dropping just four games against Kimberly Birrell in Saturday’s second match, Keys continued to fire early on Sunday at the U.S. Cellular Center, navigating through deuce in each of the first three games—requiring a combined 30 points—for a double-break advantage.
But Barty stormed back to lead, 5-3, and took an opening set that featured seven breaks of serve in 10 games. With Keys serving at 4-5, three untimely errors surrendered the set.
"She obviously started playing a lot better," said Keys. "I got nervous."
The American continued to struggle in set two, making six unforced errors in the opening three games to fall behind, 3-0, in a reversal from the match's opening stanza. After Keys initially showed life by sprinting to a love-40 advantage in the first game, Barty used a slew of unreturned serves to hold. It kicked off a run in which she won 14 of 17 points, and Keys could only manage one game in a lopsided second set.
"It's always different playing for yourself versus playing for your country," Keys reflected after the tie. "No matter what, it's always nerve-wracking. It's a different pressure you have to deal with. I didn't handle it very well today."
With Team USA now behind, 2-1, in this best-of-three tie, Captain Kathy Rinaldi substituted Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins in for Sonya Kenin for the do-or-die fourth rubber. Aussie captain Alicia Molik countered by subbing in world No. 47 Daria Gavrilova, in place of Kimberly Birrell.
Should Collins level the tie at 2-all, a doubles match would decide the tie.