United States Faces Long Odds To Successfully Defend Fed Cup Title

Katerina Siniakova beat Alison Riske on the opening day in Prague (photo: Fernando Colon/USTA

PRAGUE, November 11, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

As the United States and Czech Republic begin the second day of their 2018 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas final in Prague, with the championship trophy awaiting the winning team, the odds of a U.S. comeback are long. After all, despite capturing 18 previous Fed Cup championships – most of any country – an American team has never come back from down 0-2 to win the title.

After the Czech Republic finished Saturday with a 2-0 lead on the strength of singles victories by Barbora Strycova and Katerina Siniakova, U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi remained upbeat.

“Anything can happen in Fed Cup, and tomorrow’s another day,” said Rinaldi. “I’m super proud of these girls.

“I thought today was some great tennis. These girls laid their heart and souls out there on that court and competed. It was a just a day of missed opportunities, in my opinion.”

In the first rubber, Strycova, who was appearing in her 20th Fed Cup tie, defeated rookie Sofia Kenin, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4. The second rubber was won by Siniakova, 6-3, 7-6 (2) over Alison Riske, who was appearing in just her second Fed Cup tie. That the Czechs won both matches with their best player, World No. 7 Petra Kvitova, not in the lineup due to illness is a credit to the depth of their team.

“I was just trying to fight every point and focus on every point,” said Siniakova. “Trying to be on my game and when I have a chance, just go for it and be aggressive. So, I think it went pretty well. I’m happy about it.

Kenin, 19, who made her Fed Cup debut Saturday against Strycova called it “an amazing experience,” despite losing. “Unfortunately, I lost, but I’m just going to get ready, prepare myself, because we still have a good chance.”

Looking back on her first Fed Cup match, Kenin recalled, “I was pretty nervous. But I was able to handle it, and once I stepped onto the court, I knew this was gonna be completely different.

“I’m really happy with the way I performed. I gave it all out there. I fought until the end. It was a good match. It gives me a lot of confidence, and I’m looking forward to my next one, hopefully.”

On Sunday, the No. 52-ranked Kenin will face No. 31 Siniakova in the opening rubber. If she pulls off an upset, then No. 33 Strycova will oppose No. 63 Riske. A fifth-and-decisive doubles rubber remains a possibility, if the U.S. wins both of the reverse singles.

“We can only give it our best,” said Riske, “and like Kathy said, anything can happen in Fed Cup. We’ll be playing different opponents than we did today, and we can only look to be aggressive and go after it.”

Fed Cup notes

• Czech Republic captain Petr Pala was asked his assessment of the first day of the Fed Cup final. He said, “Well, it’s always a perfect day when you’re leading 2-0, but (there’s) still a long way to go – and I couldn’t ask for more than what the girls just did on the court. I think they were dealing with a big amount of pressure for different reasons. Barbora, (it is) her last Fed Cup, so she really want(s) to do well, and I think it was a great match … and Katerina (was) dealing with a different kind of pressure, showing that (she’s) a No. 1 player for the team at the moment. I was very happy the way she played. I think we experienced really good two matches.”

• Barbora Strycova, 32, of the Czech Republic was asked during her post-match press conference what the secret success of Czech tennis is and what she has in common with other Czech players. She said, “Well, to be honest, we are all very good, and that also pushes us to sometimes, ‘I want to be better than her,’ in a good way – and that helps us to work more. Maybe, this is the secret. Otherwise, we all work very hard, we all try to push ourselves, and we all meet every week around the world, which is nice. You can see how the young players are improving and looking at us.”

• Sunday’s matches begin at noon local time (11 a.m. GMT; 6 a.m. ET) with the two reverse singles matches followed by a possible fifth-and-decisive doubles rubber. A revised schedule may take place if the Czech Republic clinches the title in the third or fourth match.

Sunday’s schedule:
Rubber 3 – Katerina Siniakova vs. Sofia Kenin
Rubber 4 – Barbora Strycova vs. Alison Riske
Rubber 5 – Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova vs. Danielle Collins/Nicole Melichar

Note, team captains may change their lineup nominations up to one hour prior to the start of the day’s matches.