to star in San Antonio
Arthur Kapetanakis | April 17, 2019
SAN ANTONIO – Team USA brought more than one star to the Lone Star State, with WTA Top-15 talents Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys leading the host contingent in San Antonio. They are joined by Sonya Kenin and Fed Cup debutants Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula.
Keys and Kenin return to the squad after the World Group I opening-round defeat to Australia, with both hungry to salvage the 2019 campaign and ensure Team USA avoids relegation to World Group II for the first time since 2016.
“We’re playing to stay in World Group I. It’s obviously very important,” said Keys. “We were all really bummed about the loss, and we’re looking to walk away with a win after this weekend.”
The 24-year-old is the second-most experienced member of captain Kathy Rinaldi’s squad, with a career record of 5-4 across singles and doubles. ADVERTISEMENT Only Stephens, who owns a 5-5 lifetime record, has played in more Fed Cup matches. The 26-year-old Stephens is making her first Fed Cup appearance since the 2018 semifinals, when her two singles victories helped the U.S. defeat France to reach its second straight final.
“We have an awesome team with Sloane and Madi,” said Rinaldi. “Two very experienced players, unbelievable players and leaders.”
The two are close friends off the court but battled it out earlier this month in the Volvo Car Open quarterfinals. In a rematch of the 2017 US Open women’s singles final, Keys scored her first career win over Stephens en route to her fourth career WTA title. She also knocked out former Grand Slam champions Caroline Wozniacki (final) and Jelena Ostapenko (Round of 16) in Charleston, S.C., dismissing both in straight sets.
“I’m feeling like I have kind of figured my game out again,” said Keys, who recently reunited with coach Nico Todero.
Kenin, 20, is prepping for her third consecutive tie with Team USA, though she is still in search of her first team and individual victory.
Both Brady and Pegula are making their official Fed Cup debuts, though Brady was a hitting partner for the 2017 final, when the U.S. won its 18th title, in Belarus.
“I think I can say for both of us that we're both truly honored to be a part of the Fed Cup team, to represent the United States,” said Brady, a former UCLA Bruin.
While the WTA Rankings would suggest that Team USA is a heavy favorite, the Swiss are comfortable in the underdog role. The highest-ranked player on the visiting squad is world No. 80 Viktorija Golubic. The Zurich native is the lone Top-100 player on the Swiss team, which also includes 14-year Fed Cup veteran Timea Bacsinszky, Conny Perrin and Ylena In-Albon.
“We’re kind of used to that, as a small nation,” said Swiss captain Heinz Gunthardt. “We’re kind of good at it because we usually overachieve in Switzerland.
“[The U.S.] is one of the best teams in the world—a team that can win the Fed Cup any year because you have so many players with so much talent there.”
While Fed Cup title No. 19 will not come in 2019, this weekend’s tie will determine whether or not the competition’s most successful team is in the running for 2020.