Team USA edged
by Australia in Fed Cup thriller
Arthur Kapetanakis | February 10, 2019
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Danielle Collins and Nicole Melichar could not complete the comeback for Team USA, as they fell to Ashleigh Barty and Priscilla Hon, 6-4, 7-5, in the Fed Cup World Group tie's decisive fifth match. Team Australia now advances, 3-2, to face Belarus in the semifinals in what is their first World Group appearance since 2015.
After Barty topped Madison Keys in Sunday’s opener and Collins outlasted Daria Gavrilova in the fourth rubber to keep U.S. hopes alive, the doubles match would decide this entertaining tie at the U.S. Cellular Center. In the end, Brisbane’s Barty broke U.S. hearts as the architect behind all three of her team’s victories.
"It's the best feeling in the world, it really is," said Barty. "These are the moments you remember for the rest of your life. ADVERTISEMENT You play a million matches on tour, but the best memories come from these Fed Cup weeks."
U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi made the decision to stick with Collins alongside Melichar after the UVA grad’s impressive finish against Gavrilova.
“We saw her fight. We wanted to ride that momentum,” she said. “We just saw how well she was striking that ball, so we went with her.”
The Aussies—both Brisbane natives—made the first move, breaking Melichar in the fifth game, and it proved enough to secure the set. Barty, not for the first time on the weekend, proved her worth as the Aussie No. 1 by saving a break point and holding in a 12-point game to put her team one set away from the semifinals.
The teams traded breaks early in set two, with Collins and Melichar pounding returns down the middle of the court to recover from an early 2-0 hole.
Barty brilliance guided Australia to a crucial hold in the longest game of the match, as three aces and strong baseline play earned a hold in a 14-point struggle, with Hon doing her job at the net when opportunities came her way.
Despite being broken in two consecutive service games, Hon raised her game late in set two thanks to expert guidance from her unflinching teammate.
"She was always there for me when I was a little bit off the rails, a little bit negative," Hon said of Barty's support. "She would always kind of comfort me, help me believe in myself."
After the U.S. broke and held to take a 5-4 lead, the Aussies won 12 of the match’s last 14 points for the victory. Either side of breaking the Collins serve, both Barty and then Hon held serve at love, the 20-year-old Hon defying her nerves to put Australia through.
“Honestly, I think it came down to a few points. It really could have gone either way” said Melichar. “But also, credit to them. Ash came up with some big serving.
“Ashleigh, she’s a good all-around player. She serves well, returns well, volleys well. There aren’t too many holes in her game. So that’s why she’s been successful in both singles and doubles.”
Despite the loss, the young Americans enjoyed their Fed Cup experience, and will look to grow up together in this competition.
“Even though we lost today, we’ve built a really great bond with each other,” said Collins. “I wish we could have done more [on the court], but it was a really great experience.”
“I’m really grateful to have been here, competed for my country,” added Kenin. “It’s obviously tough to lose. It’s even tougher when you lose for your country than when you lose for yourself.”
Next up for Team USA is a Fed Cup World Group playoff, the weekend of April 20-21, when they will fight for their place in the 2019 Fed Cup World Group in a home tie against Switzerland.