Kenin, Mattek-Sands Win Doubles
to Send U.S. to Budapest
Victoria Chiesa | February 8, 2020
EVERETT, Wash. — Team USA is headed to the Fed Cup Finals.
After nearly seven hours of tennis over three matches, Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasia Sevastova, 6-4, 6-0, in the fifth and final rubber of the 2020 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Qualifier against Latvia on Saturday night to seal a 3-2 overall victory against Latvia.
While the final rubber proved uncomplicated, the road that got the the U.S. to that match was anything but.
The home team entered Saturday’s play with a 2-0 lead in the tie after wins for Kenin and Serena Williams on Friday, but a determined effort from Ostapenko and Sevastova helped pull the visitors level after singles play and set the stage for the winner-take-all finale.
"As the doubles player here in the last match of the day, you don't know if it's going to count for something or if it's all coming down to it,” Mattek-Sands said.ADVERTISEMENT
“I'm ready for both. I have been in both situations. Either way, I was bringing my energy to cheer on my teammates and to bring it out on the court. I was ready to go when I woke up this morning.”
Former French Open champion Ostapenko won a battle of major-winners in Saturday’s first rubber, beating reigning Australian Open champion Kenin, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, to get the visitors on the board in the tie, but it was a dramatic turnaround for Sevastova against 23-time major champion Williams that sent the tie the distance against all odds.
“Moments like these...you're going to remember forever," Kenin said after rebounding in the fifth rubber. "It was a tough [singles] match, but I was cheering Serena on very loud. I was going all out. I have never been nervous watching anyone, so I was really nervous for [her].
"I was obviously looking forward for the doubles. I knew this was a great opportunity to represent my country, especially with Bethanie. We have great times together. I knew it was going to be a tough match, but I was ready to fight out there and leave everything out [on the court]."
Sevastova, a former world No. 11, was beaten by Williams in the 2018 US Open semifinals, 6-3, 6-0, but turned in a titanic effort in a 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 fourth rubber that lasted two hours and 25 minutes to hand the American her first-ever singles defeat in Fed Cup competition.
Williams, who had been 14-0 entering the match after Friday’s 7-6, 7-6 win over Ostapenko, lost just her third-ever singles set in Fed Cup when she dropped the opener, having had three set points after coming back from a 5-2 deficit in the set.
While the opening set saw eight combined service breaks between the two players before Sevastova won it in a tiebreak, neither woman even faced a break point in the final set before the Latvian No. 2 again came up clutch at the end.
Six marathon sets of singles tennis may have drained too much from the Latvians for their doubles effort, and Kenin and Mattek-Sands needed just 68 minutes to punch Team USA’s ticket to Budapest.
Rinaldi made the decision to substitute Kenin for Alison Riske ahead of the final match, reuniting the pair that won the China Open, a WTA Premier Mandatory event, last fall, and reached the third round in Melbourne last month.
“Sonya and Bethanie obviously have played together quite a bit and had some success recently,” Rinaldi said. “I reminded Sonya that back in junior Fed Cup [in 2014], we were playing our qualifying, and the last match was 2-2, and we came down to the doubles.
“I put Sonya in, and she was very clutch in that match and got us actually to the finals of [Junior] Fed Cup in Mexico, which she was on the team and we went on to win. Bethanie has a world of experience in doubles. She's been on my teams before, so I knew we were all in good hands.”
Mattek-Sands, a five-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1 in doubles, earned her fourth career victory in a live fifth rubber, having also helped send the U.S. to the 2009, 2010 and 2017 Fed Cup Finals previously.
“This is what we train for, representing the Stars and Stripes,” Mattek-Sands added. “The energy out there was amazing. For me, it's fun to play out there in moments like that in front of a crowd like that with teammates like this cheering me on the bench.”
Team USA will join 11 other nations—Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Russia, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland—in the new-look Fed Cup Finals in April, which will be held at one site, the Laszlo Papp Budapest Sports Arena, from April 14-19.
The U.S. has won 18 Fed Cup titles, the most of any nation, having won its latest in 2017.
“As I said from the beginning, we are one team, one goal,” Rinaldi said. “Right now, we're very happy to have won this match against tough opponents. The way they played, they could easily be contenders for Budapest, too.
“We should take a lot of confidence from this match, and we’re really looking forward to April.”