Sunday, April 21, 2019

Kenin, 20, clinches U.S. win in Fed Cup playoffs

Sofia Kenin, shown en route to the title in Berkeley (Calif.) last July,
earned her first Fed Cup victory today. She was a late replacement for
Madison Keys, who was upset on Saturday. Photo by Paul Bauman
   In less than one year, Sofia Kenin has gone from champion of the $60,000 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger to Fed Cup heroine.
   Kenin, a late replacement for veteran Madison Keys, defeated Timea Bacsinszky, a former top-10 player, 6-3, 7-6 (4) today to give the United States an insurmountable 3-1 lead over Switzerland on an indoor hard court in San Antonio in the Fed Cup World Group playoffs.
   "I'm speechless," the 36th-ranked Kenin, who trailed by a service break twice in the second set, said in an on-court interview. "It's my first win in Fed Cup, and I'm honestly so happy. You guys (the fans) are incredible -- I love the support. You guys really saved me, so thank you."
   Kenin, a 20-year-old Moscow native who moved to the United States as a young child, had been 0-3 in the Fed Cup, all in singles.
   Bacsinszky, 29, reached a career-high No. 9 in May 2016 but underwent surgery on her right (playing) hand in September 2017. Since dropping out of the rankings last September, she has climbed back to No. 111.
   Earlier today, Fresno product Sloane Stephens beat Victorija Golubic 6-3, 6-2 to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead. In the last match, Switzerland's Ylena In-Albon and Conny Perrin beat Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula 7-5, 6-2.
   Absent this weekend were top-20 singles players Serena Williams of the United States and Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. They have climbed as high as No. 1 and No. 7, respectively.
   The United States will remain in the elite World Group next year and try to win its 19th Fed Cup title. The Czech Republic ranks second with 10. Switzerland, meanwhile, will stay in World Group II.
   In a gutsy move, U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi chose Kenin over Keys to play the critical fourth match. Kenin, who also won Northern California Challenger singles titles in 2016 and 2017, is far less experienced and accomplished than the 24-year-old Keys, who won the last Bank of the West Classic at Stanford and reached the U.S. Open final in 2017 (losing to Stephens), but mentally tougher.
   Keys, ranked No. 14, lost to No. 80 Golubic 6-2, 6-3 in the opener on Saturday to fall to 4-5 in Fed Cup singles. Stephens, ranked No. 8, then evened the series with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Bacsinszky.
   Both Brady and Pegula made their Fed Cup debuts.
   Brady swept the singles and doubles titles in the $25,000 Redding (Calif.) Challenger in 2014.
   Pegula reached the singles final of the $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2012, losing to Modesto product Maria Sanchez, and advanced to the semifinals of the $60,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger last October.
   Pegula's parents, Terrence and Kim Pegula, own the NFL's Buffalo Bills and NHL's Buffalo Sabres.

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