EVERETT, Wash. – Nearly five years passed since Serena Williams last played singles in a Fed Cup competition.
Even though she struggled for stretches on Friday night, Williams remained perfect.
Williams improved to 14-0 in Fed Cup singles matches, defeating Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets to give the United States a 2-0 lead over Latvia.
Williams outlasted Ostapenko 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) to put the U.S. on the cusp of advancing to the Fed Cup Finals in Budapest, Hungary in April. The U.S. needs just one victory in the three scheduled matches on Saturday to advance.
“I just want to be able to go out there and do well. You're playing for your country, it's not just for you,” Williams said.
The U.S. was given an early advantage after Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin rolled with a dominant 6-2, 6-2 win over Anastasija Sevastova in the opening match. With a 2-0 lead, the one unknown for Saturday is whether U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi will use one of her substitutions and give Coco Gauff a chance to make her Fed Cup debut.
“Obviously I'd love to give her an experience at Fed Cup, especially her first one, but our goal is we're one team, one goal, and that's to win,” Rinaldi said.
Williams was outplayed for large chunks of the match by Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion. Ostapenko matched Williams’ power, served better and hit more winners.