In a bit of a surprise to the hometown fans, world No. 21 Varvara Lepchenko held off world No. 16 Roberta Vinci in the second singles rubber to even the first round tie, 1-1. Fed Cup rookie Lepchenko defeated Vinci in a long, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, match that lasted for two hours and 17 minutes. This was the first time Lepchenko and Vinci had faced each other in singles.
“I was really proud of the way Varvara approached the match and how disciplined she was," stated U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez. "Even when she was down, she competed really well, in Fed Cup, things get complicated and there is always tension."
Lepchenko took a 5-1 in the third set, but the momentum shifted, and the third set was leveled at 5-5, but Lepchenko then broke Vinci and held serve to win the final set, 7-5. This was Lepchenko’s best career win since beating then-world No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the second round of the WTA event in Montreal last year.
Following the match, Lepchenko dedicated the win to her new fiancée, Taras. The couple met at a ski resort two years ago and became engaged this October. Taras proposed to Lepchenko on the beach in St. Augustine, Fla.
“I am really proud of the way I handled myself today," said a relieved Lepchenko. "I have had many people cheering against me in many tournaments throughout the year, so this time, I was happy to see my team cheering for me. They really helped me.”
Rising American Jamie Hampton faced 2012 French Open champion and world No. 7 Sara Errani in the first singles rubber, but came up short, losing to Errani 6-2, 6-1, in one hour and two minutes. Hampton, who has previously served as a Fed Cup practice partner, was the 69th player ever to be named to the U.S. Fed Cup team. She is expected to face Roberta Vinci tomorrow in the fourth singles rubber.
The last time the U.S. Fed Cup team had two rookies playing the first and second singles rubbers was in 2009, when Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Alexa Glatch made their Fed Cup debuts in the World Group semifinal in the Czech Republic. Mattek-Sands lost the opening singles match, while Glatch won her second singles rubber. Glatch went on to win her other singles match, while Mattek-Sands lost to level the tie at 2-2. The U.S. then won the doubles rubber and sent the U.S. to their first Fed Cup Final since 2003.
There will be two singles matches on Sunday, followed by an all important doubles match that could decide it all.
The U.S. has a chance to pull off the upset, and Captain Fernandez knows it.
“We are still in this tie and it is fantastic. I told the girls that the goal was to win any three matches any which way."
The United States leads all nations with 17 Fed Cup titles, the last coming in 2000, and holds a 142-32 all-time Fed Cup record. The United States holds a 46-3 record in the first round or first tie of the year since Fed Cup competition began in 1963. All U.S. losses occurred since the World Group format was introduced in 1995.