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U.S. tied 1-1 with Czech Republic after Fed Cup Day 1 at Saddlebrook

American Shelby Rogers, in her Fed Cup debut,  falls to the Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova  6-3, 6-3. “I struggled with my serve a little bit, a little bit with the backhand and some things,” she says.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

American Shelby Rogers, in her Fed Cup debut, falls to the Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova 6-3, 6-3. “I struggled with my serve a little bit, a little bit with the backhand and some things,” she says.

WESLEY CHAPEL — National anthems were sung robustly. National flags were hoisted. There was a drum line and dueling trumpets on opposite sides of the grandstand, blaring in a phonic rally across center court.

Fed Cup tennis at its most intense.

"It was incredible," U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said.

On a warm, partly cloudy Saturday afternoon, CoCo Vandeweghe mostly basked in this convergence of pageantry, patriotism and a pristine clay court. Shelby Rogers periodically struggled in it. As a result, the United States and Czech Republic were tied 1-1 after the first day of their semifinal at Saddlebrook.

After splitting a pair of singles matches, the teams complete the best-of-five tie with two more singles matches and a doubles match today. The winner moves on to the final in November to face the winner of the Belarus-Switzerland semifinal.

The United States hasn't reached a final in seven years. The Czechs are the three-time defending champions.

"Everybody loves to play here at home and have that support, and we certainly felt it (Saturday)," Rinaldi said. "We're hoping to feel it again (today), and we're hoping that that's going to push us through. We really feed off that."

Vandeweghe, the world's 24th-ranked singles player and a Fed Cup veteran, overcame a modest second-set funk in a 6-1, 6-4 win over 17-year-old left-hander Marketa Vondrousova in the opener.

Before a spirited Saddlebrook audience of 2,862, Vandeweghe won seven consecutive games at one point, finishing with five aces (to Vondrousova's none) and totaling 10 winners with her double-fisted backhand.

The only glitch in her day: letting Vondrousova break her serve twice in a row in the second set, prompting Vandeweghe to slam her racket.

The butt of the racket bounced off the clay and right back into Vandeweghe's hand. Similarly, nearly everything bounced her way the rest of the match as she won three of the last four games.

"I definitely had a huge mental lapse (in the second set), which happens from time to time," said Vandeweghe, who finished with more unforced errors (36) than Vondrousova (33).

"But I was able to keep coming back because I had a really good bead on her serve. I really was reading it well, and it was very predictable at times. So I think I used that to my advantage when it came to important points."

Rogers, by contrast, committed 43 unforced errors in a 6-3, 6-3 loss to Katerina Siniakova. A 2016 French Open quarterfinalist, Rogers dropped the first four games as Siniakova won 18 of the first 25 points. She staged a mild comeback, breaking Siniakova's serve twice later in the set, but couldn't build on the momentum. Her lone double fault of the day ended the match.

"Now I think I understand why it's so difficult to win your debut Fed Cup match," Rogers said. "It's definitely a different atmosphere. I struggled with my serve a little bit, a little with the backhand and some things. But (Siniakova) played very well."

U.S. tied 1-1 with Czech Republic after Fed Cup Day 1 at Saddlebrook 04/22/17 [Last modified: Saturday, April 22, 2017 10:08pm]
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