ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) Venus Williams helped the United States advance in the Fed Cup before assisting in her sister’s return to competitive tennis.
Williams defeated Richel Hogenkamp 7-5, 6-1 to give the U.S. a decisive 3-0 lead in its best-of-five matchup with the Netherlands. The U.S. advanced to a World Group semifinal April 21-22 at France, which defeated Belgium 3-2 this weekend.
“Honestly, I feel like we were all a team out here, us playing and everyone in the stands,” Williams said in her post-match interview in front of the sellout crowd of over 5,000 at U.S. Cellular Center. “It was all of us together, and it felt awesome.”
Williams will play doubles later Sunday alongside her sister, Serena Williams, who will be returning to tennis after spending a year away from the game to become a mother.
Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter Sept. 1 and hasn’t played competitive tennis since winning the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant for her 23rd career Grand Slam singles title, one off Margaret Court’s record.
After Venus Williams’ singles victory Sunday, U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said the Williams sisters would be playing doubles together. The schedule originally called for Serena Williams to play alongside Lauren Davis.
Sunday’s scheduled singles match between CoCo Vandeweghe and Arantxa Rus was scrapped because the outcome of this best-of-five event already has been decided, but the doubles match will go on as scheduled.
Before the doubles match started, the U.S. team celebrated its triumph over the Netherlands. Davis carried an American flag while joining the Williams sisters and Vandeweghe on a victory lap around the court.
The U.S. had taken a 2-0 lead Saturday when Venus Williams defeated Rus 6-4, 6-1 and Vandeweghe rallied from a set and a break down to beat Hogenkamp 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3.
“Honestly, I’d like to think CoCo wore her out some,” Venus Williams said after her own victory over Hogenkamp.
Venus Williams’ victory over Hogenkamp improved her Fed Cup singles record to 21-2 with 11 straight victories. Her only Fed Cup singles losses came in 1999 to Russia’s Elena Dementieva and in 2005 to Russia’s Anastasia Myskina.
Hogenkamp had a break-point opportunity that would have put her ahead 6-5 in the first set before Williams won the final seven points of the set. Williams took the last five games of the match to wrap up the victory.
“You’re under pressure a lot,” Hogenkamp said. “Every time you hit a second serve, you see someone at the other side standing one or two meters inside the baseline. She’s giving a lot of pressure to me when I’m serving, overall putting pressure on you. I think that’s one of her strengths. For me it’s tough, when I’m not feeling the match really well, to handle that.”
In other Fed Cup action this weekend, the Czech Republic beat Switzerland 3-1 and Germany beat Belarus 3-2. Germany will host the Czech Republic in the other semifinal.
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