Stephens, Collins dominate Spain;
Team USA wins Group C in Prague
Victoria Chiesa | November 3, 2021
After a stunning defeat to Slovakia on Tuesday, the U.S. Billie Jean King Cup team knew that it needed to rebound in a big way to have a chance of advancing out of pool play at the Finals in Prague—and Sloane Stephens and Danielle Collins answered the call to help do just that.
With the loss of just nine games combined, the duo secured singles victories in Team USA's second round-robin tie against Spain on Wednesday, putting the Americans on top in Group C and into the semifinals.
Stephens, who sat on the bench on Tuesday in favor of Shelby Rogers, kicked off the tie with a 6-4, 6-4 win over world No. 66 Nuria Parrizas-Diaz before Collins put in the performance of the weekend against Sara Sorribes Tormo in the match between the tie's highest-ranked players. In just 59 minutes, world No. 30 Collins blew past the world No. ADVERTISEMENT 37, 6-1, 6-0, in their first-ever meeting.
"Sloane got us off to a great start. She came out and was locked in and played a superb match against a very tough opponent," U.S. captain Kathy RInaldi said. "Danielle, coming off last night’s performance [a win vs. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova], was incredible and she just continued that play today and really set the tone for the day. I couldn’t be more proud of those two and of the entire team."
The U.S. earned a 2-1 overall victory as Rebeka Masarova and Aliona Bolsova denied the sweep with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Caroline Dolehide and CoCo Vandeweghe, and the dominant scorelines from Stephens and Collins were what allowed the Americans to advance. Though all three countries in the group went 1-1 against each other and 3-3 in matches within the tie, the U.S. went 7-6 in sets, followed by Slovakia (8-8) and Spain (7-8).
"I think, on paper, it was probably as good as it could get for me today," Collins said. "I just went out there and had my tactics, and just executed perfectly. You don’t have many of these days throughout the year, so I think when you have them, you’re just kind of happy about it, and for me, I was just really on roll. I think it’s hard to put into words when you have a performance like that, but I certainly had my tactics and really executed them as well as I could. It couldn’t have been any better. I’m a little bit surprised.
"I think our desire to do well here ... from the time we landed in Prague, even before then, I think we wanted to come in and try to win this. And now, it’s a little bit close, but we’re good at playing under pressure, and we all have our experiences of having to deal with tough situations on court. I think after losing the way we did yesterday, there were some things that we could take away from that. We had to quickly move on and look forward to today and get locked into our tactics and try to execute those, so try to have a short-term memory on a day like we had yesterday."
For Stephens, who won her fifth straight match in Billie Jean King Cup play, jumping into the event's new format on its second day proved a challenge. With lineups revealed just an hour before the start of play, the 2017 US Open champion had to do some scouting on the 30-year-old Parrizas-Diaz, who has risen over 200 places in the WTA rankings this year.
"I honestly was just watching YouTube videos of her before the match, because I was like, 'I’ve never seen her before, never seen her play.' Obviously, most of the girls, we know well we’ve played multiple times and this is definitely a wild card, because I didn’t know her game style and know how she played," Stephens said.
"She doesn’t play like a typical Spaniard. She’s not like a grinder, per se, so it was a little bit difficult. But I think when you’re playing for your country you just have to get out there and compete. I think for me it was just running a lot of balls down, just trying to figure it out as I went. I did just that."
In the semifinals, Team USA will face the team from the Russian Tennis Federation, the winners of Group A. The Russian team boasts French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and former Top 10 player Daria Kasatkina, as well as Ekaterina Alexandrova, Veronika Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova, all of whom are ranked in the world's Top 40.
"There’s no doubt they’re a very strong team. They have incredible depth. They had a tough match today, so I think for tonight and for tomorrow the girls are going to get a lot of rest," Rinaldi said. "We’ll fine-tune a few things. We’ll start putting our game plans together now that we know who we’re playing and be ready to go. We’re going to compete hard.
"They have an extremely solid roster, but so do we. [We're] really looking forward to it. We’re super-excited to play them and to be in the semifinals. So much at stake. The players on our team that represent the USA, this is what they play for. They love playing Billie Jean King Cup and they’re going to leave their heart and soul out on that court."