U.S. TAKES 2-0 LEAD
ON DAY 1 OF FED CUP IN ASHEVILLE
Ashley Marshall | February 10, 2018
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Venus Williams celebrated a win in her 1,000th career match, and Coco Vandeweghe won her 13th consecutive Fed Cup rubber to double Team USA’s advantage and give the U.S. a commanding lead on Day 1 in Asheville.
Top-ranked American Williams defeated Arantxa Rus of The Netherlands, 6-1, 6-4, and Vandeweghe followed with a 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 come-from-behind victory over Dutch No. 1 Richel Hogenkamp. The U.S. now holds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five tie, and Williams will have a chance to clinch victory Sunday, when she opens the second day of play against Hogenkamp.
“It’s always great if your team can start out with a win,” Williams said. “It hopefully takes pressure off the player going second. I've always enjoyed playing first in these ties.
“Honestly, I don't really know about these milestones when they happen. ADVERTISEMENT It's just great to be playing the game that I love. Not really going for milestones, but then they happen.”
The winner of this tie will advance to play either France or Belgium in the World Group semifinals in April.
Williams got the U.S. on the board first, earning consecutive breaks in the middle of the first set and running away with five straight games to wrap up a 26-minute opener.
Rus shook off some initial nerves and started to find her footing in the second set and, coupled with a drop in Williams’ serve, began to fight back into the match.
The pair traded five breaks in the opening five games before Williams held in the sixth to establish a lead she would never relinquish.
“I think it took a little while for me to understand her game,” Williams said. “She had a good serve. She had some of those first serves in. She was playing great defense at times, too. There was one point that I definitely thought I won, and somehow she managed to win it. Those kind of unexpected moments definitely were well competed by her.”
Rus held serve at 3-5 to stay alive, but the American wrapped up the first rubber when Rus dumped a backhand into the net.
The seven-time Grand Slam women’s singles champion committed 25 miscues against nine winners, but she rarely looked like she was losing her grasp on the match.
“I think in the beginning I was a bit nervous,” said Rus. “In the second set, I played more aggressive. Of course, she's standing in the court. You have so much pressure. It's different than against other players.”
The win comes in Williams’ 1,000th career singles match and improves her record to 776-224. She also becomes just the fourth American in Fed Cup history to win 20 singles matches, joining Chris Evert (40), Billie Jean King (26) and Lindsay Davenport (26) to reach the milestone.
Williams has also now won her past 10 Fed Cup singles matches since a 2005 loss against Russia.
In the second match, Vandeweghe won her 13th Fed Cup rubber in a row between singles and doubles play, but not before Hogenkamp gave her a sizable scare before ultimately succumbing to the American’s power and experience.
"Tennis is such a mental game," Vandeweghe said. "I think a match like that shows it. I was quite a bit rusty going out there. Having said that, she gave me a lot of difficulties through the match. She's a very unorthodox-style player, with a lot of slices, chips, runs a lot of balls down.
"I hung around long enough in that second set to give myself opportunities. I took the opportunities. Third set, getting ahead was very important. I definitely saw in her body language she deflated once I started to get ahead."
Vandeweghe led early, but it was Hogenkamp who grasped the momentum, reeling off four games in a row to transform a 4-2 deficit to a 6-4 lead.
Hogenkamp continued to play well in the second set, earning an early break and racing out to a 3-0 lead. Vandeweghe’s frustration came to a head when she missed a forehand volley inside the service box, eventually leading to her breaking her racquet on the floor by her chair.
Whatever pent-up energy she released appeared to signal a turning point. She won five of the next six games and sent the set into a tiebreak, despite failing to serve it out at the first time of asking.
The American seemed less intent on running around her backhand, mixing in slices off both wings and occasionally trading power for angles. In matching Hogenkamp's slice-and-dice approach, it helped Vandeweghe problem-solve a difficult opponent and created opportunties for clean passing shots that best utilized her power-first game.
A lone break in the fourth game of the final set proved to be the decisive moment. Hogenkamp had one last chance to get back into the match, with Vandeweghe serving at 4-2, but the California native erased the break point with an ace and went on to wrap up the match in front of a raucous and appreciative home crowd minutes later.
"It was very electric in there," Vandeweghe said. "It's so intimate that it made it feel that much more personal. You saw me multiple times throughout the match today asking them for more. It's a home-court advantage for a reason. I want my opponent to definitely feel that out there."
Sunday's play is scheduled to see Venus play Hogenkamp; Vandeweghe against Rus; and Serena Williams and Lauren Davis against Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs. Should Venus win her singles match, the remaining singles match will not be played.
Captains can change their first singles nomination up to an hour before play begins.