Australia and US locked 1-1 in Fed Cup
Australia and the USA will head into day two of the Fed Cup tie in North Carolina on level terms after wins for Ash Barty and Madison Keys.
America’s Madison Keys levelled the Fed Cup tie with Australia at 1-1 by convincingly defeating Queenslander Kimberly Birrell in the second singles rubber in North Carolina.
Ash Barty opened the tie with a 6-1 7-6(2) win for Australia over Sofia Kenin on Saturday, and the Aussie relished the atmosphere at the US Cellular Center indoor arena in Asheville.
“It’s always a challenge in Fed Cup,” said Barty. “Always a challenge I enjoy, to be honest.
“It’s very nice playing at home, having the crowd with you. When you play away, it’s a bit of a different ball game, a different battle. I certainly enjoy it. I love it.
“I think it was important for me to start well. Regardless of what was happening during the match, it was important for me to start well, try to set the tone early, put pressure on her straight away.”
Keys struck back for the Americans 6-2 6-2 against Birrell to set up an intense deciding day of the World Group Fed Cup first-round tie on Sunday (Monday AEDT).
“She’s been inside the top 20 for a long time now,” said Birrell.
“She goes deep in Slams. There’s a reason for that. I think she’s a really great player.
— Fed Cup (@FedCup) February 9, 2019
“I think she’s played really well today. I did as best as I could. But yeah, the weight behind her shot was definitely different to anything I’ve really felt before. I’m just going to take it as another experience.”
World number 13 Barty will face 17th ranked Keys before Birrell, 157th, is scheduled to play 37th ranked Kenin in the remaining singles rubbers.
Barty and Daria Gavrilova are set to play American duo Nicole Melichar and Danielle Collins in the doubles.
Team captains Kathy Rinaldi and Alicia Molik could yet change their line-ups.
“I think the good thing is, both teams have had a really good look at each other under pressure, playing on this court,” said Australia captain Alicia Molik.
“You guys, it’s your home-court advantage. A lot is expected of your players. There’s a lot riding on the shoulders of Keys. She’s the star of your team. She plays Ash tomorrow. I think there’s a lot of expectation on her.”
USA captain Kathy Rinaldi said: “We’ll take it one match at a time. That’s what we’ve been doing since I’ve been captain. That’s what we’re going to continue to do.
“We know we have tough opponents. We have to come out tomorrow and compete hard and play well.”
The winner of the tie will move on to play Belarus or Germany in the Fed Cup semifinals in April, with Belarus 2-0 up in that tie after day one.
Order of play
USA v AUSTRALIA
Sunday 11 February
1pm (Monday 5am AEDT) – Ash Barty (AUS) vs Madison Keys (USA)
Followed by Kimberly Birrell (AUS) vs Sofia Kenin (USA)
Followed by Ash Barty / Daria Gavrilova (AUS) vs Danielle Collins / Nicole Melichar (USA)
United Cellular Centre, Asheville, North Carolina, USA (hard-court indoor)