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U.S. takes commanding 2-0 lead in Fed Cup vs. Poland

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February 6, 2016 07:19 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams gave the U.S.  a commanding 2-0 lead in its World Group II First Round tie against Poland at the Holua Tennis Center in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on Saturday.

Stephens shook off some second-set nerves to beat Magda Linette, 6-2, 6-4, and Williams (pictured above) overcame a shaky serving performance to topple Paula Kania, 7-5, 6-2.

The results leave the U.S. in a dominating position heading into Sunday, needing only one more match victory to secure the tie and advance to the 2016 World Group Playoffs. The winners of the 2016 World Group Playoffs would earn promotion to the World Group for 2017 and the opportunity to compete for the 2017 Fed Cup championship.

The U.S.-Poland loser will be relegated to the World Group II Playoffs, battling to stay in World Group II in 2017.

On Sunday, Williams is scheduled to play Linette in a battle of each nation’s top representative, with Stephens facing Kania. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe are set to close the tie against Poland’s player-captain Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Alicja Rosolska. Captains can change their lineups prior to Sunday's play.

"Each match is important. It's so much better to go into the second day with the lead, but you still have to finish the job," U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. "We'll start with the first one with Venus playing at 10 and focus on that one. But, yeah, it's huge to come through the two. There were tense moments in both the first and second matches, so it was great to be able to get through both of them."

In Saturday’s opening rubber, Stephens, ranked 25th in the world,  toppled No. 96 Linette in one hour and 15 minutes. Playing her fourth career Fed Cup singles match, the 22-year-old American converted two of three break-point chances in the first set, including in the third game to move ahead 2-1 and then again with Linette serving at 2-4.

Things were less straightforward in the second set, with Stephens dropping each of her first two service games to fall into an 0-4 hole. She turned the set around, however, breaking three consecutive times to forge ahead 5-4. Serving for the match, Stephens won the first three points before converting her third match point to seal the victory.

“I definitely had a little [problem] there at the beginning of the second set, but I regrouped well and I was happy that I was able to play some solid tennis towards the end,” Stephens said. “It happens, so all I can really take from that is that I tried my butt off and never gave up. That's all that really counts."

In the day's second match, Williams overcame an uneven 40-minute first set to put the U.S. on the verge of a return to the playoffs. She squandered a 3-1 but came back to reel off the last three games of the opening set, which featured a total of nine breaks.

"I think I at 5-4, I was actually very relaxed," Venus said afterward. "I think her strengths is playing from behind. I think when she was in front it wasn't as comfortable for her. So just that game, I put some balls in, she missed a few, and at 5-all I probably had more experience than she did."

The two-time US Open champion then broke Kania three more times in the second set, winning five of the last six games to give the Americans a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five match and running her personal Fed Cup singles record to a sterling 18-2.

Coverage continues Sunday on the Tennis Channel at 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. local time).

 

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