Sofia Kenin continues busy stretch with Fed Cup

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EVERETT, Wash. — When Sofia Kenin looks back on the past week, it truly is a blur.

As last Saturday night turned to Sunday morning, Kenin was basking in the adulation following her first career Grand Slam tournament title as the winner of the Australian Open after beating Garbiñe Muguruza in the final in three sets.

By Thursday, she was prepping to be the No. 1 singles player for the United States in its Fed Cup match against Latvia.

“It’s still sinking in slowly. I’m still processing this,” Kenin said. “I was super excited to win a Grand Slam. It was the best experience, the best two weeks of my life. (U.S. captain) Kathy (Rinaldi) told me I’m going to join Fed Cup and it was such an honor. I’m super excited. I told her we’re going to do some stuff.”

With other Americans like Serena Williams and Coco Gauff grabbing the attention, it was Kenin playing steady, at times gutsy, tennis to land the first major title of her young career last week in Melbourne.

Rest? That’ll wait for the 21-year-old now ranked No. 7 in the world.

“I was happy to take time off and come here,” Kenin said. “Even though it was a long journey, I would have done anything to represent my country and be with the guys on my team.”

The U.S. isn’t short on big names for its qualifying matchup in Everett, Washington, against Latvia. The winner of the best-of-five matches will advance to the Fed Cup Finals taking place in Budapest, Hungary, in April under a new format.

Williams is participating for the first time since 2018, when she returned to tennis following the birth of her daughter. Gauff is taking part in the Fed Cup for the first time, her previous international experience in this event coming at the junior level, where she helped the U.S. to the title in 2018.

So there is plenty of star power for arguably the most significant women’s tennis event to come to the area.

“It’s definitely important, especially in the United States,” Williams said. “There’s only a few tournaments in selective states. In particular, women’s tennis does not get to play in a lot of areas. That’s one thing that is exciting about Fed Cup, is we can go to states, parts of the country that’s not represented.”

Williams drew the No. 2 singles spot for the U.S. and will face Latvia’s No. 1 Jelena Ostapenko in Friday’s second match. Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, is ranked 40th in the world.

“I think it is a great opportunity to share the court with such a great player,” Ostapenko said. “She’s done like so much for our sport. She was always my idol since I was growing up. Now to play against her, as I said, it’s a great opportunity. I’m going to try to enjoy every moment.”

Kenin will face Anastasija Sevastova in the opening match Friday. Kenin beat Sevastova earlier this year in Brisbane.

The singles matches will be reversed Saturday, although there can be substitutions, and that’s where Gauff could come into the picture.

The U.S. announced Alison Riske and Bethanie Mattek-Sands as its doubles pair for Saturday, leaving Gauff as the only member of the team without a scheduled match. Gauff reached the round of 16 at the Australian Open – including an upset of third-seeded Naomi Osaka – before falling to Kenin in three sets.

“This team is incredibly solid and deep. You don’t really go into it thinking about the substitutions right off the bat,” Rinaldi said. “We have really strong players all the way through. Obviously health, making sure everybody is fit, ready to go, that’s first and foremost the most important thing.”

Gilbert Klier Junior hit with 12-month doping ban

Landon Bost/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY Network-Florida /USA TODAY NETWORK
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LONDON — Brazilian Gilbert Klier Junior, a bronze medalist at the 2018 Youth Olympics, has been banned for 12 months in a doping case, the International Tennis Integrity Agency said.

The ITIA said it had accepted that Klier Junior had not deliberately doped and that the banned substance SARM S-22 had entered his body through a contaminated supplement. However, it said he bore some responsibility, especially “following other high profile cases involving Brazilian tennis players and other sports people.”

The 22-year-old Klier Junior has a career high ranking of 354th and won bronze in the singles event at the 2018 Youth Olympics.

The ban was backdated to start from last June, when Klier Junior was first suspended from competition while the case was resolved.

Croatia advances in Davis Cup as Coric beats Thiem

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Borna Coric beat 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-2 to send Croatia into the group stage of the Davis Cup.

Coric helped the Croatians win their second Davis Cup title in 2018, but he was sidelined when they lost in the 2021 final while missing a year of action with a right shoulder injury.

He returned to the tour last March, winning a Masters 1000 title in August in Cincinnati, Ohio, and rejoined the Croatians when they reached the Davis Cup semifinals last year.

His victory over Thiem, who has also dealt with injuries in recent years, gave Croatia a 3-1 victory in Rijeka. The Austrians had taken the tie against the No. 1 team in the Davis Cup rankings to a fourth match when Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler beat Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 6-3, 7-6 (11) in the doubles match earlier Sunday.

Chile, Finland, the Netherlands, South Korea and the Czech Republic also completed victories Sunday to secure their places in the next round, which will be played in September.

On Saturday, the U.S. completed a sweep of Uzbekistan, while Serbia, France, Britain, Switzerland and Sweden also finished off victories. Those 12 countries will play in the group stage, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In Sunday’s other matches:

– Finland 3, Argentina 1: On indoor hard courts in Espoo, Finland, Harri Heliovaara and Emil Ruusuvuori edged Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, before Ruusuvuori secured the winning point and a personal 3-0 weekend by beating Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 6-1.

– Netherlands 4, Slovakia 0: On indoor hard courts in Groningen, Matwe Middelkoop and Wesley Koolhof sent the hosts through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Alex Molcan and Lukas Klein. Middelkoop then beat Jozef Kovalik 6-4, 6-4.

– South Korea 3, Belgium 2: On indoor hard courts in Seoul, the hosts rallied from a 2-0 deficit after the first day. Min-Kyu Song and Ji Sung Nam kept them alive with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victory over Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille. Soonwoo Kwon then beat David Goffin 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 before Seong Chan Hong completed the comeback with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Zizou Bergs.

– Czech Republic 3, Portugal 1: On an indoor clay court in Maia, Portugal, Jiri Lehecka wrapped up the victory by beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-1.

– Chile 3, Kazakhstan 1: On an outdoor clay court in La Serena, Chile, Cristian Garin beat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 after the hosts had taken the lead with a victory by the doubles team of Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera.