Kenin falls to Barty
in Fed Cup opener
Arthur Kapetanakis | February 9, 2019
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – In a battle of two of the most in-form players on the WTA Tour, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty was too much for Sonya Kenin and the Asheville crowd to overcome, as the Green and Gold secured an early 1-0 advantage in this World Group opening-round tie.
Barty, who entered the match with an 8-2 record in 2019, including a run to the Australian Open quarterfinals, continued her run of form with a 6-1, 7-6 victory over Kenin, who was 7-2 on the year heading into the weekend.
After winning her maiden WTA title at the Hobart Open in Australia this January, Kenin took then world No. 1 Simona Halep to three sets at the Aussie Open. But on Saturday, with the Aussies in American territory at the U.S. Cellular Center, the 20-year-old could not take a set off Barty.
The world No. 13 secured an early break for 2-0 in set one thanks to a successful challenge and held serve in a crucial, 12-point third game to consolidate her early edge. ADVERTISEMENT Kenin, with the aid of two double faults, created three break points for an immediate answer, but Barty got the better of the first extended rallies of the match, her slice and variety from the baseline keeping her opponent guessing.
"I had those chances. It's unfortunate I didn't take advantage of them," said Kenin. "But she's a tough player, and I respect her a lot."
The Aussie stayed strong throughout the set, in which she dropped just five points on serve outside of the lengthy third game and won all 10 of her first-serve points, and cruised to a 6-1 decision. The early start kept the Asheville crowd quiet, and Barty continued to dominate in set two, establishing an early 3-1 lead.
"It's always a challenge in Fed Cup," she said of battling the crowd. "When you play away, it's a bit of a different ballgame, a different battle. I certainly enjoy it, I love it."
Kenin found her rhythm to keep within touching distance, and at the final opportunity, with Barty serving for the match at 5-4, the American made her breakthrough on the return. Despite three unreturned Aussie serves, Kenin saved a match point and eventually took the 10-point game on a Barty double fault.
The American’s backhand—a shot that Barty had successfully targeted through much of the match—came alive with two down-the-line winners in the ensuing game, and suddenly she was four points away from a third set, leading, 6-5.
But three Barty aces took it to a tiebreak, and the Aussie was the steadier of the two as the pressure mounted. After capitalizing on some Kenin errors early in the breaker, she used a deep return to draw a Kenin error and seal the match.
American Madison Keys will look to level the tie when she faces Aussie Kimberly Birrell in Saturday's second rubber. After Kenin rouesd the crowd with her late charge, Keys has an opportunity to feed of that energy.
"I think Maddie can do well," said Kenin. "We're going to keep her going, just get the momentum up. Hopefully it can be 1-1 and tomorrow we take the momentum on our side."