DELRAY BEACH, FL, USA: Team USA rebounded from a 0-1 deficit to end a long day at the Delray Beach Tennis Center tied 1-1 in this Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie between the USA and Sweden on Saturday.
World No. 1 Serena Williams had to wait out a long rain delay, but quickly got down to business once on court to take a quick 62 62 win over Johanna Larsson. The match had been scheduled to play during the day, but it was night and under the lights for the 66-minute outing.
Williams held onto her serve throughout the match, although she did offer three break points to the 66th-ranked Larsson.
It was Williams’ power and precision that delivered 31 winners, five aces, one service winner, and the ability to break serve on four of five break points presented by Larsson.
“I just try to fight and do the best I can,” Williams said. “I’m here for the team. Even though I don’t feel pressure, I’m here to give 100 per cent. If I don’t feel 100 per cent, I’m still going to try to give that.”
The 24-year-old Larsson wasn’t dismayed by the outcome of the match. It was her first shot at Williams and she considered it a worthwhile experience.
“It's definitely an experience for me today,” Larsson said. “I had a lot fun out there. I thought I had a few chances, especially in the beginning of the second set. I had a few break points.”
In the afternoon, 54th-ranked Sofia Arvidsson put the Swede’s ahead 1-0 on Saturday with a 64 46 61 win over Sloane Stephens, playing her first ever Fed Cup singles match. The match took two hours to complete, including a heat break that turned into a rain delay before the third set.
US captain Mary Joe Fernandez commented on being 1-1 heading into Sunday’s reverse singles matches and the doubles match.
“It was big for Serena to get a quick start in the first set of her match,” Fernandez said. “I thought the first match could’ve gone either way. Sloane had opportunities I thought to get ahead early and wasn’t able to capitalize.
“But we’re in a good position. Every match is a big match, and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Sweden’s captain Lars-Anders Wahlgren also commented about his team standing at 1-1 heading into Sunday.
“Of course it's a little bit of a surprise for the Swedish team it's 1-1,” he said. “I always believe in my girls that I work with. I was hoping for even two-love with a good positive thinking. One-one is good result for us.”
On Friday, Wahlgren made it very clear that he was happy with the way the draw worked out for his team.
Wahlgren believed that the Fed Cup experience Sofia Arvidsson brought to the court would provide a good opportunity for her to start the tie on a positive note for Sweden.
He was right as Arvidsson put the Swede’s ahead 1-0 on Saturday with a 64 46 61 win over American Sloane Stephens, playing her first ever Fed Cup singles match. The match took two hours to complete, including a heat break that turned into a rain delay before the third set.
The 54th-ranked Arvidsson brought incredible Fed Cup expertise to the court: This is the Swede’s 48th Fed Cup tie, she has a 48-35 winning record in Fed Cup with her singles performance coming now at 34-22.
The 29-year-old Arvidsson is now 12-3 when playing the first rubber on Saturday in Fed Cup.
“First match is always important,” said the 29-year-old Arvidsson, after her win. “You want to win and put a lot of pressure on the other team. Of course, Serena is very big favorite in the second match.”
“Obviously, she’s played a lot of Fed Cups,” Stephens said of Arvidsson. “They played in the group qualifying and the whole she-bang, so I think she’s played a lot. Definitely tough losing to her. At least I played someone that really knew what they were doing.”
Arvidsson now has a 2-1 career record over the 16th-ranked Stephens. The American had won their last encounter at the Brisbane tournament in January.
The 20-year-old Stephens never seemed comfortable on the court and even struggled during the second set that she won. Stephens took a 3-0 lead in the second set, but then let Arvidsson back into the set before breaking Arvidsson's serve in the final game to even the score at one set apiece.
“It’s definitely a tough situation and obviously I want to do really well for my team, so it’s tough losing,” Stephens said.
Stephens posted 74 unforced errors in the match as Arvidsson clearly was the aggressor on the court.
In a telling statistic, Stephens put 42 of her 47 second serves into play, but only won 40 percent of the points on her second serve.
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Mary Joe Fernandez (USA) - 20/04/2013
Serena Williams (USA) - 20/04/2013
Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) - 20/04/2013