Saturday, February 9, 2019

Fed Cup, Dallas Challenger, college women's tourney

Madison Keys, shown in 2017, beat Kimberly Birrell
6-2, 6-2 today in Asheville, N.C., to even the United
States' series against Australia at 1-1 in the first round
of the Fed Cup. Photo by Mal Taam
   The first day of the Fed Cup tie between the United States and Australia went according to form.
   Ashleigh Barty, ranked 13th, held off 37th-ranked Sofia Kenin, 6-1, 7-6 (2) in 79 minutes today to give Australia a 1-0 lead in the first round of the best-of-five-match competition on an indoor hard court in Asheville, N.C.
   Madison Keys, ranked 17th, pulled the United States even with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Kimberly Birrell, ranked 157th, in 63 minutes.
   Absent from the tie are the United States' top two singles players, No. 4 Sloane Stephens and No. 11 Serena Williams, and Australia's second-highest-ranked singles competitor, No. 41 Ajla Tomljanovic.
   The United States leads all nations with 18 Fed Cup titles. The Czech Republic is second with 11, followed by Australia with seven.
   The U.S. has reached the last two Fed Cup finals, beating host Belarus in 2017 and losing at the Czech Republic last November. Australia seeks its first title since 1974 and first berth in the finals since 1993.
   The 5-foot-5 (1.66-meter) Barty, a quarterfinalist in last month's Australian Open, pounded 10 aces to Kenin's one and won 91 percent of the points on her first serve (29 of 32).
   With Barty serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, Kenin saved two match points and broke on a double fault.
   Kenin, a Moscow native who moved to Florida as a young child, has excelled in Northern California Challengers, winning titles in 2016 (Sacramento), 2017 (Stockton) and last year (Berkeley).
   Kenin won her first WTA title in Hobart in early January and lost to then-No. 1 Simona Halep in the second round of the Australian Open after leading 4-2 in the third set.
   Keys, who won the last Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2017, never faced a break point against Burrell, who underwent elbow surgery in 2016 and lost in the first round of the Berkeley Challenger last July to Modesto product Maria Sanchez.
   Kenin and Birrell, both 20, were chosen over higher-ranked, older players.
   Danielle Collins, an Australian Open singles semifinalist ranked 23rd at age 25, is scheduled to play doubles only for the United States on Sunday in her Fed Cup debut. Kenin fell to 0-3 in the Fed Cup, including two close singles losses in last year's final.
   Birrell stunned then-No. 10 Daria Kasatkina in the first round in Brisbane in the first week of January and reached the third round of the Australian Open. Meanwhile, 47th-ranked Daria Gavrilova is 0-4 this year.
   Gavrilova, a 24-year-old Moscow native, won the doubles title in the 2014 Sacramento Challenger with compatriot Storm Sanders. It was Gavrilova's first tournament since undergoing surgery for a torn ACL only eight months beforehand.
   In Sunday's reverse singles, Keys is scheduled to face Barty at 10 a.m. PST (Tennis Channel), followed by Kenin against Birrell.
   Keys defeated Barty 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the 2017 French Open in their only career meeting. Kenin and Birrell have not played each other.
   In the fifth rubber, Collins and Nicole Melichar are set to take on Barty and Gavrilova.
   ATP Challenger Tour -- No. 14 seed Mitchell Krueger, playing in his hometown, reached the final of the $135,400 RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas when No. 6 seed Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla., withdrew because of a quadriceps injury.
   Fratangelo won the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger last October.
   Krueger, 25, will face top-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 23-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area.
   McDonald, who's featured in Tennis Channel's "My Tennis Life" this year, beat third-seeded Reilly Opelka, 21, of Palm Coast, Fla., 6-4, 7-6 (13) in a late match. McDonald converted his fourth match point and saved four set points in the tiebreaker.
   At 6-foot-11 (2.11 meters), Opelka towers over the 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) McDonald, a former UCLA star who won the 2017 Fairfield Challenger.
   McDonald, ranked No. 91, is 4-1 against Krueger, ranked No. 209. They met two weeks ago in the second round of the $162,480 Newport Beach Challenger, with McDonald winning 6-3, 6-4.
   In the doubles semifinals, U.S. wild cards and former UCLA teammates Marcos Giron and Dennis Novikov nipped second-seeded Romain Arneodo of Monaco and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus 6-7 (4), 6-4 [11-9].
   Giron and Novikov, a 25-year-old San Jose product, will meet unseeded Ante Pavic of Croatia and Ruan Roelofse of South Africa. They edged unseeded Ruben Gonzales of the Philippines and Alex Lawson of Tempe, Ariz., 6-4, 5-7 [10-8].
   McDonald and Giron won three NCAA individual championships combined. McDonald swept the singles and doubles titles in 2016, and Giron took the singles crown in 2014.
   ITA National Women's Team Indoors -- Today's quarterfinals in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle were postponed because of dangerous road conditions. The Seattle area received more than six inches of snow on Friday.
   Top-ranked Stanford (4-0), the defending NCAA champion, is scheduled to play No. 6 Texas (4-1) on Sunday at 10 a.m. The Cardinal routed No. 18 LSU 4-0 on Friday in the opening round.

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