WASHINGTON, April 20, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
The United States Fed Cup team finds itself in the position of needing a must-win this weekend against Switzerland in a Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group playoff tie at San Antonio, Texas. If the U.S. beats Switzerland, it maintains its World Group status and means it can compete for the the 2020 Fed Cup title. If the Americans lose to Switzerland, which will be without its best player this weekend, World No. 20 Belinda Bencic, they will be relegated to World Group II next year.
During a pre-tie press conference earlier this week, Madison Keys, 24, the second-most experienced member of the U.S. team behind Sloane Stephens, put it matter-of-factly when she said, “We’re playing to stay in World Group I. It’s obviously very important.
“We were all really bummed about the loss (to Australia), and we’re looking to walk away with a win after this weekend.”
U.S. team captain Kathy Rinaldi, always the optimist, has been upbeat about the weekend’s tie, which will be played at the Freeman Coliseum on an indoor hard court. “We have an awesome team with Sloane and Maddie,” she said. “Two very experienced players, unbelievable players and leaders.”
🇺🇸💪#TeamUSATennis hits the court ahead of the Fed Cup tie vs. Switzerland!
— USTA (@usta) 17. April 2019
Following Friday’s draw ceremony at the historic Alamo, Keys will open play Saturday afternoon in the second singles position taking on No. 80 Victoria Golubic, the No. 1 player for Switzerland. The second rubber features Sloane Stephens, No. 1 for the Americans, against Switzerland’s second player, No. 111 Timea Bacsinzsky, who is a 14-year Fed Cup veteran. On Easter Sunday, the reverse singles will be played starting with Stephens versus Golubic followed by Keys against Bacsinzsky and, if necessary, the doubles rubber.
Keys is 5-4 combined in singles and doubles, while Stephens, 26, is 5-5 lifetime. The World No. 8 is making her first Fed Cup appearance since representing the U.S. in the 2018 semifinals, and it’s her seventh Fed Cup tie overall.
Rounding out the U.S. team is Sonia Kenin and Jessica Pegula, who will team in doubles, and Jennifer Brady.
“Obviously I’ve grown up playing with all these girls,” said Stephens, quoted by the Fed Cup website. “I don’t think there’s one person that’s the leader. I think we all kind of complement each other. We have a good vibe, good vibes in the team. Just, yeah, happy to be here. Everyone’s equal, the same, we have good chemistry.”
Meanwhile, Golubic is the only Top 100 player for Switzerland. Conny Perrin and Ylena In-Albon, who will play doubles, fill out the Swiss team.
A very symbolic place in #SanAntonio : The #Securitas Swiss #FedCup Team in front of the @OfficialAlamo – they will fight and give it all this weekend vs the US! #SupportTheSwiss
📸 @usta pic.twitter.com/el7Erjwem3
— Swiss Tennis (@swiss_tennis) 19. April 2019
Swiss captain Heinz Günthardt, who by all accounts gave a great and funny speech at the Fed Cup dinner in San Antonio Thursday night, said that Switzerland is good at making cheese and chocolate, sitting on bank vaults and yodeling when they’re happy. He said the Swiss yodel a lot for Roger Federer.
“We’re kind of used to that, as a small nation,” said Gunthardt. “We’re kind of good at it because we usually overachieve in Switzerland.”
Gunthardt realizes that the Swiss have a big job ahead if they are to win at Freeman Coliseum this weekend. “(The U.S.) is one of the best teams in the world – a team that can win the Fed Cup any year because you have so many players with so much talent there.”