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USA vs Australia Fed Cup live streaming, preview and predictions: Barty Party in Asheville as Australia upset USA 3-2 to make semi-finals

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 11 Feb 2019
  • Ash Barty has led Australia to a 3-2 victory over USA in the Fed Cup quarter-finals
  • Australia advances to their first Fed Cup semi-final since 2014
  • Barty and debutant Priscilla Hon teamed up to win the decisive doubles tie
Ashleigh Barty lead seven-time Fed Cup champions Australia against a deep USA side in this weekend's first-round World Group encounter (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Ash Barty has spearheaded Australia to a 3-2 upset win over 2017 Fed Cup champions the United States in Asheville, winning all three of her matches in straight sets.



RESULTS

Day One - USA 1-1 Australia
Ashleigh Barty (AUS) d. Sofia Kenin (USA), 6-1, 7-6(2)
Madison Keys (USA) d. Kimberly Birrell (AUS), 6-2, 6-2

Day Two - Australia 3-2 United States

Ash Barty (AUS) def. Madison Keys (USA) 6-4 6-1
Danielle Collins (USA) def. Daria Gavrilova 6-1 3-6 6-2
Ashleigh Barty/Priscilla Hon (AUS) def. Danielle Collins/Nicole Melichar (USA) 6-4 7-5

In another dramatic Fed Cup quarter-final, Ash Barty led Australia into their first semi-final since 2014 as she won all three of her matches against 2017 champions USA in Asheville.

Anchoring the team after making her first major quarter-final at the Australian Open last month, Barty defeated Sofia Kenin and Madison Keys in straight sets in her two singles rubbers before teaming up with debutant Priscilla Hon in the doubles to defeat the combination of Danielle Collins and Nicole Melichar, also in straight sets.





Seven-time champions in Fed Cup, Australia is into the semi-finals for just the second time since the current format of the competition was established in 1995. Their last victory came all the way back in 1974.

Australia will go on to face Belarus at home in April for a spot in the final.

DAY TWO PREVIEWS

Madison Keys (USA) vs Ashleigh Barty (AUS), 6pm GMT
The high point of the tie looks to be the clash between the respective team's top singles players in Sunday's reverse singles, with the winning team taking a 2-1 lead that could prove to be decisive.

This will be just the second meeting between Madison Keys and Ashleigh Barty, with Keys having won their first encounter in straight sets on the clay of the French Open in 2017 - very different surroundings from the indoor hard courts of Asheville.

World no. 13 Barty is under huge pressure as Australia's highest-ranked player, but justified her billing on day one with a straight-sets win over Hobart champion Sofia Kenin, who got the nod over Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins. Barty came in on fine form after defending her runner-up points in Sydney (where she beat world no. 1 Simona Halep) and making her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Melbourne, and she reduced Kenin to spectator status in the first set with an excellent display of first-strike tennis. Barty has been getting better and better at keeping the points short and being willing to dictate with a strong serve and forehand, and she served for the match at 5-4 in the second set - only for nerves to strike, and hard. A cluster of unforced errors saw match point squandered and Kenin breaking back on a double fault from the Australian. 

Barty had to bounce back fast after Kenin held for 6-5, but she did just that, recovering her equilibrium to dominate the subsequent tie-break. 

Keys would also suffer her only blip of the day when she was serving for the match, dropping serve on the brink of victory against inexperienced Kimberly Birrell, who had some good wins in January but wasn't able to do anything in the face of Keys's big serve and forehand. The American, too, swiftly steadied and closed out a crushing victory to put the USA on the board.

It's an intriguing clash in prospect between Barty and Keys, two players who rely on big serves and forehands to win points. Barty is the more defensively gifted, the more versatile player, but that won't matter if Keys executes her booming power perfectly. There's also greater pressure on Barty's shoulders thanks to the American team's comparative depth - if she loses this rubber, it's very difficult to see how Australia could win the tie.

Sofia Kenin (USA) vs Kimberley Birrell (AUS), to follow
Changes of nomination in this second reverse singles would not be a surprise, especially where Kimberly Birrell is concerned, with the 20-year-old looking rather out of her depth against Keys on Saturday - Australian captain Alicia Molik might well choose to send in the more experienced, if out of form, Daria Gavrilova, or Priscilla Hon even. 

It will be interesting whether captain Kathy Rinaldi sticks with Sofia Kenin or chooses Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins instead. Kenin didn't play badly against Barty, it just wasn't a good match-up for her; she should do much better against Birrell, or Gavrilova, in a match-up which will allow her to outsteady and out-scrap her opponents. In some ways, it would repay Kenin for her rough introduction to Fed Cup tennis - her first two rubbers were three-set defeats to Barbora Strycova and Katerina Siniakova away to the Czech Republic in last year's final - to give her the opportunity to clinch the tie, if Keys has put the home team 2-1 up. If a win must be delivered and there's no margin for error (i.e. if Barty has won), Collins might be the better bet.

Danielle Collins/Nicole Melichar (USA) vs Ashleigh Barty/Daria Gavrilova (AUS), to follow
It feels like Collins and Nicole Melichar are almost guaranteed to be the pairing for the USA if the tie comes down (unlikely) to a live fifth rubber - and this match also might be more even than one might think: Barty is an excellent doubles player and owns a 5-1 record in Fed Cup doubles, but the world no. 13 would firstly be quite fatigued, and secondly, all her Fed Cup doubles has been played with familiar partner Casey Dellacqua. An unfamiliar pairing with Gavrilova or another member of the Australian team might not be as effective.

DAY ONE PREVIEWS

Sofia Kenin (USA) vs Ashleigh Barty (AUS), 6pm GMT
Given the nod ahead of Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins, Sofia Kenin will attempt to get the hosts off to a winning start against Australia's strongest player, Ashleigh Barty.

Sofia Kenin (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Kenin, who is just 20 years old, had her first taste of Fed Cup drama when she was nominated to play two singles rubbers in the final against the Czechs last year, and acquitted herself well, ending up on the wrong end of tight three-set defeats to Barbora Strycova and Katerina Siniakova. A player who seems to thrive on the big stage, Kenin made a couple of WTA Tour semifinals and had some solid wins in 2018 and just broke into the top 40 for the first time off the back of winning her maiden WTA Tour title at the Hobart International, a bright start to the year she carried into the Australian Open where she made life extremely difficult for Simona Halep in the second round. 

Barty also comes into this tie off the back of an excellent Australian summer. The quiet Australian has been rising up the rankings and consolidated her place inside the top 20 20 during a 2018 season which saw her win Nottingham and Zhuhai, reach the final in Sydney and win back-to-back matches at three of the year's four majors. She is now at a career-high world no. 13 after defending her runner-up points in Sydney, narrowly losing to Petra Kvitova in a thrilling final after scoring her first win over a world no. 1 against Simona Halep en route, and reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open.

Kenin and Barty have met once before, the Australian winning 6-3, 6-2 on the green clay of Charleston last April, and Barty also owns a 6-1 win-loss record in Fed Cup singles. Australia absolutely must rely on Barty to get two singles wins and she should be able to subdue Kenin on Saturday.

Madison Keys (USA) vs Kimberly Birrell (AUS), to follow
Just as Australia are looking to Barty, the USA are looking to Madison Keys - although their top-ranked player has stronger backup - to get the USA on the board on day one in Asheville.

Madison Keys (Photo by Boris HORVAT / AFP)
Ranked as high as world no. 7 in 2016, Keys made the US Open final in 2017 and was a French Open and US Open semifinalist in 2018, although she didn't have the strongest results in regular WTA Tour events. The big-serving American again put in a solid shift at the Australian Open, reaching the round of 16 despite no warm-up matches before losing in three sets to Elina Svitolina, and is playing her fifth Fed Cup tie with a 3-2 win-loss record - and in the past two ties she's played, she's only played one rubber, which raises questions that captain Kathy Rinaldi might just be looking for her to get one win on the board on Saturday before benching her on Sunday, perhaps in favour of Danielle Collins.

Kimberly Birrell has only ever played one Fed Cup rubber - a defeat to Dominika Cibulkova back in 2016. Not too many had heard of the 20-year-old German-born Australian before this January, when Birrell, ranked world no. 283, got wins over Daria Kasatkina and Kristina Mladenovic in Brisbane and Sydney, then took advantage of an Australian Open wildcard to reach the third round, defeating Donna Vekic before losing to Angelique Kerber 1-6, 0-6.

Now ranked at a career high world no. 157, Birrell can swing freely because she won't really be expected to win - this is, after all, just the third match against a top-20 player of her career. But experience, power and calibre is all on Keys's side.

TIE INFORMATION

Location: Asheville, USA

Venue: US Cellular Arena

Surface: Indoor hard courts

USA: Madison Keys, Danielle Collins, Sofia Kenin, Nicole Melichar, Kathy Rinaldi (captain)

Australia: Ashleigh Barty, Daria Gavrilova, Priscilla Hon, Kimberley Birrell, Astra Sharma, Alicia Molik (captain)

TIE PREVIEW

The USA and Australia are two of the most successful nations in Fed Cup history, occupying first and third places on the all-time list of nations with most titles: The USA having won 18 titles and reached 12 finals besides, while Australia have won seven titles (only the USA and the Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia, with 11, have more) and having made ten finals.

In recent years, however, it's been the USA who have been far more prevalent in the conversation, with four appearances in the final in the past decade and a title in 2017 when they beat France in the final. Australia have not won the Fed Cup since 1974, and their last appearance in the final came in 1993. 

That might be a big part of the reason that this first-round World Group tie in 2019 is just the second clash between the two nations since 1985, the other coming in 2016 when the USA beat Australia 4-0.

While the Americans aren't fielding Serena Williams, Venus Williams or Sloane Stephens for this tie, they still boast a strong side and it's depth that makes them favourites for this tie. Big-serving world no. 17 Madison Keys is backed up by Danielle Collins, the former college player who put together a brilliant run to the Australian Open semifinals, and young star Sofia Kenin, who recently claimed her first WTA Tour title in Hobart, with Nicole Melichar also in Kathy Rinaldi's side.

Australia, meanwhile, are relying heavily on world no. 13 Ashleigh Barty. An accomplished singles and doubles player, 22-year-old Barty won two singles titles in 2018 and made a bright start to 2019, reaching the final of the Apia International Sydney and going on to make her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Melbourne. But Barty's back up is world no. 47 Daria Gavrilova, who is on a five-match losing streak in singles and is 0-4 in 2019 so far, and the relatively untried Priscilla Hon, Kimberley Birrell and Astra Sharma. A lack of depth and experience could be Australia's undoing - or the stage could be set for a huge, heroic performance by Barty. 


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USA vs Australia Fed Cup live streaming, preview and predictions: Barty Party in Asheville as Australia upset USA 3-2 to make semi-finals

USA vs Australia live streaming, preview and tips for the Fed Cup World Group first-round tie taking place in Asheville, USA from 9-10 February: Ashleigh Barty must beat Madison Keys and likely win the doubles too to deliver victory for Australia

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