Jelena Ostapenko defeated Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in three sets on Saturday as Latvia pulled within 2-1 of the United States in its Fed Cup qualifying match.
Ostapenko beat Kenin 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 to give Latvia its first point against the Americans. Ostapekno broke Kenin four times in the third set as the former French Open champion outlasted the most recent Grand Slam winner.
Serena Williams, who improved to 14-0 all-time in Fed Cup singles matches with a victory over Ostapenko on Friday night, was scheduled to face Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova in Saturday’s second singles match. The U.S. needed one more victory to clinch a spot in the Fed Cup Finals in April in Budapest, Hungary.
Fatigue from a whirlwind past seven days since winning in Melbourne may have finally caught up with Kenin. She struggled with the power of Ostapenko before adjusting to dominate the second set, but she couldn’t hold serve in the final set.
The pair exchanged breaks in the first three games of the third, leaving Ostapenko with a 2-1 lead. She nearly gave the advantage back to Kenin, but Ostapenko saved a pair of break points to take a 3-1 lead on a swinging forehand volley.
Ostapenko broke Kenin for the third time in the set for a 4-1 lead, but gave a game back to the American with a double fault.
Again, Kenin couldn’t hold. Ostapenko’s forehand winner gave her a 5-2 lead and she closed out the match in 1 hour, 58 minutes.
“It’s always very special to play for my country and I was just trying my best today,” Ostapenko said. “Until the last point I knew it was going to be a very tough match and I was trying to play aggressive.”
Kenin opened the event with a dominant win over Sevastova on Friday night. She found the challenge against Ostapenko far tougher.
The big-hitting, former French Open champion gave Williams all she could handle in the second singles match on Friday, losing because of errors in both tiebreakers. Ostapenko still had plenty of errors against Kenin – 49 unforced errors – but also had 34 winners to just 13 for Kenin.