February 4th, 2020

Preview: U.S. Fed Cup Team See Ostapenko as the Key this Weekend

General News Pro Tennis

Latvia has only spent four years total in the Fed Cup’s top-level World Group, but they remain an unpredictable opponent due to their unpredictable star — former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

The all-time winningest player (30-15 win-loss) in Latvian Fed Cup history, the 22-year-old Ostapenko captured the French Open title out of nowhere in 2017, her first-ever WTA or Grand Slam title. Since then she has won only two smaller titles at Seoul and Luxembourg. Ostapenko’s aggressive style means, depending on the day, she is going to take it to opponents with a flurry of winners, or crash in a display of unforced errors. That could spell trouble for a U.S. Fed Cup team, most of who have not faced her before.

The U.S. will host Latvia this weekend in the first round of 2020 Fed Cup in Everett, Wash., on Feb. 7-8 at Angel of the Winds Arena. The U.S. team will be lead by its new top-ranked player, recent Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin, and former No. 1-ranked Serena Williams. Also named to the team were Coco Gauff, Alison Riske and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Kenin and Ostapenko have never met on tour, nor Williams and Ostapenko. Gauff beat Ostapenko last year in their lone meeting, while Ostapenko beat Riske in their lone meeting last year at the US Open. If Kenin and Williams take the Top 2 singles spots for the U.S. over the weekend as expected, it will be two matches of players meeting for the first time on the biggest stage in team tennis.

In addition to Ostapenko, the Latvian team will include world No. 41 Anasasija Sevastova, No. 255 Diana Marcinkevica and No. 502 Daniela Vismane. Kenin is 2-0 career against Sevastova and Williams is 1-0 career against the player who will likely be Latvia’s No. 2 singles player.

“I’ve known [Kenin and Gauff] since they were little girls so it is really exciting to see them blossoming into top players in the country and in the world, and it’s very rewarding,” said U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi, speaking to the Seattle Times. “They know that I am there to support them, whether they play Fed Cup or not. Obviously, I want them to play Fed Cup and I am fortunate we have so many great Americans now in the Top 100 who want to play, and we’ve had great teams.”

The best-of-five match series will be played on a hard court inside Angel Of The Winds Arena. Play will begin Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. local time (10:30 p.m. ET) with two singles matches. The official draw ceremony will be held at noon local time on Thursday, Feb. 6, at Angel Of The Winds Arena. The winner of the match-up advances to the 2020 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals on April 14-19 in Budapest, Hungary, featuring 12 nations in a new Fed Cup format.

The U.S. will be looking for a first Fed Cup title since 2017.

“I would love to win another one, there is no doubt about that,” Rinaldi said. “We’ve got some exciting young players and for them to have that experience to get their feet wet in the Fed Cup — and to maybe bring that title home would be amazing.”

Fed Cup is the world’s largest annual international team competition in women’s sport, with approximately 100 nations taking part each year. The U.S. holds an overall 152-38 record in Fed Cup competition with a 42-7 record in home ties.

For more information, including access to player and historical Fed Cup records, go to www.usta.com/fedcup or www.fedcup.com.