Into the #FedCup semifinals for the second year in a row!
Speaking ahead of her comeback at the Fed Cup in Asheville, North Carolina, where the United States will begin the defence of its crown against an unfancied Netherlands team, the 36-year-old said she had the benefit of a new outlook following the birth of her baby daughter Alexis Olympia in September. Slated to play doubles with Lauren Davis, chatter was rampant as to whether the younger Williams would slide in for singles play.
Antonia Lottner, making her Fed Cup debut for Germany, downed Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-5, 6-4 after Aryna Sabalenka had earlier seen off Tatjana Maria 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. When I'm too anxious, I lose matches, and I feel like a lot of that anxiety disappeared when Olympia was born, Williams said. I believe in all these girls.
Sunday's scheduled singles matches have Venus Serena facing Hogerkamp and Vandeweghe taking on Russian Federation.
"Just hang on", Williams said of her thinking in the second set. But the Dutchwoman, with solid serving, broke back and leveled the match at 3-3. Kvitova, who hit a total of 10 aces, then got the decisive break for a 4-3 lead in the second set after Bencic sent a forehand long.
Williams acknowledged the second half was tighter than it could have been.
Williams will use the match as preparation for her full-fledged return to the WTA circuit at the March 5-18 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells before heading to Florida for the Miami Open.
"It's probably been the most fun of my life", she said. "On paper I looked like I should win the match but it was a battle and I'm glad the US won the battle".
'Knowing I've got this attractive baby to go home to makes me feel like I don't have to play another match.
With the win, Williams joined Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Lindsay Davenport as the only American women to win 20 or more Fed Cup singles matches.
Venus is due to meet Hogenkamp in the first of tomorrow's singles matches and Vanderweghe takes on Rus before the final doubles in which Serena - in her first tournament since giving birth to a daughter by Caesarian section on September 1 past year - is paired with Lauren Davis against Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs.
The elder sister struggled to hold serve, getting broken in all but one of her service games as she seemed to lack some of the energy she had earlier in singles action. Vandewegh, who hadn't played since an Australian Open first-round exit, lost seven straight games at one point and fell behind 3-0 in the second set before rallying to beat the 108th-ranked Hogenkamp. It's an honour to have them on the team.
The US team will next face France in the Fed Cup semifinals, April 21-22 at a site to be determined in France.