U.S., CZECHS TIED 1-1
AFTER DAY 1 OF FED CUP SEMIS
Ashley Marshall | April 22, 2017
WESLEY CHAPEL, FLA. – Team USA earned a split on Day 1 of the Fed Cup semifinal against the Czech Republic, leaving the tie perfectly balanced for an exciting climax Sunday, when a spot in the final is on the line.
CoCo Vandeweghe defeated Marketa Vondrousova, 6-1, 6-4, in the first match of the day to give the U.S. an early edge, but Shelby Rogers fell to Katerina Siniakova, 6-3, 6-3, in the Day 1 finale.
That means the Americans need to win two of Sunday's three matches to advance to November's final, where they would play the winner of the Belarus-Switzerland tie, which was also knotted up at 1-1 after the first day of play.
"I think it was a great day," U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said. "Obviously anybody would want to be up 2-0. But I can't ask any more than what my players did. ADVERTISEMENT They competed hard. They fought all the way to the end. CoCo got us off to a great start. Shelby fought her way back into that match. It was really the difference of a few points here and there that could have put us up 2-0."
Vandeweghe gave the U.S. a perfect start Saturday afternoon on a day where the temperatures hovered in the low to mid 80s and humidity was more than 50 percent throughout.
The top-ranked American at the tie raced through the opening set in just 27 minutes, breaking in the fourth and six games as she won five games in a row to run away from her 17-year-old opponent, who appeared nervous in her first Fed Cup match.
The American served well in the first set, dropping only four points on serve and not facing a break point in front of almost 3,000 fans, many of who came out dressed in red, white and blue and ready to cheer.
"I thought it was amazing," Vandeweghe said of the atmosphere. "This is one of the best ones I've been a part of. I really take to heart kind of leading this team. I've always dreamed about doing that, being a leader of a team like this. I think it's really special to have that home-court advantage. I'm so glad that the people here in Florida came out to support us as well as they did, and hopefully it continues through Sunday."
Vandeweghe broke to open the second set on her third break point, then saved one on her own racquet in a game that features four deuces. But errors began creeping into Vandeweghe's game as the set wore on, and the pair traded four consecutive breaks as an otherwise straightforward match became a battle of who could best hold their emotions in check.
Vandeweghe consolidated her third break of the second set to hold for a 5-3 lead. Vondrousova saved a match point in the very next game to keep the match alive, but the world No. 24 served it out to love after one hour, 25 minutes to give Team USA a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five contest.
"I definitely had a huge mental lapse, which happens from time to time," said Vandeweghe, who improved to 4-3 in Fed Cup singles play and 7-3 overall. "But I was able to keep coming back because I had a really good bead on her serve. I was really reading it well. It was very predictable at times. I think I used that to my advantage when it came to the important points."
The win gives Vandeweghe her seventh Fed Cup win a row, following a pair of singles victories over Germany in Hawaii in February, a singles and doubles win against Australia in Brisbane last April, and doubles triumphs over Poland in Hawaii in February 2016 and against Argentina in Buenos Aires one year earlier.
Since the home-away format was introduced in 1995, the U.S. has a perfect 23-0 record after leading the best-of-5 tie 2-0 on Day 1, meaning it was vital for the Czech Republic to get on the board in the second match.
Siniakova came out firing, breaking Rogers in her first three service games and racing out to 4-0 and 5-1 leads. Rogers broke at love when Siniakova first tried to serve out the opening set, but the world No. 38 wrapped it up at the next time of asking, saving three break points in the process when the American was on the cusp of getting back on serve.
Break points were few and far between in the second set, with Siniakova converting her first one of the second set in the fifth game. The break proved decisive and Siniakova secured the victory when Rogers double-faulted – her only one of the match – on match point.
"I think I struggled with my serve a little bit today, a little bit with the backhand, some things," said Rogers, who reached the quarterfinals in Hobart and Charleston earlier this year and upset No. 4 seed Simona Halep in the first round of the Australian Open in January. "But she played very well. She didn't miss any balls, didn't give me any free points. I tried to work my way back into the first set, fighting for every point. Was almost there, had a couple break chances. I just want to try to look at the few positives I had from today and try to carry that forward."
On Sunday, Vandeweghe is currently scheduled to play Siniakova, while Rogers would face Vondrousova, whom she beat here in Wesley Chapel at a $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit clay-court tournament 12 months ago. If it comes down to the doubles, Lauren Davis and world No. 1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands are scheduled to play Denisa Allertova and Kristyna Pliskova.
"We're in it to win it," Rinaldi said. "They have a very strong team. So do we. We're going to go out there, we're going to compete. We have no excuses. We're just going to lay it out there. The girls did a great job of doing that today, competing all the way to the end. That's exactly what we're going to do tomorrow."