Keys, McHale stake U.S. to a 2-0 lead in Fed Cup Playoff

April 16, 2016 08:47 AM

By Jackie Finn, 

Madison Keys and Christina McHale notched victories on the first day of their Fed Cup World Group Playoff on Saturday, giving the U.S. a commanding 2-0 lead over Australia at the Queensland Tennis Centre in Brisbane.

The U.S. needs one more victory on the final day of play on Sunday to advance to the World Group in 2017 for the first time since 2014. The loser of this tie is relegated to World Group II for next year.

Keys, who led things off for Team USA, defeated Australia’s No. 2 player, Daria Gavrilova, 6-4, 6-2, in a strong performance that took just over an hour. The matchup, which was played in humid conditions on an outdoor clay court, was the pair’s first since they met in 2009 at the Dunlop Orange Bowl (juniors), which Keys also won.

World No. 25 Keys used a dominating serve and heavy hitting ground strokes against No. 39 Gavrilova to earn her first Fed Cup win outside the United States.

“It was a little different not having the crowd for us,” Keys said after the match, “but it was a pretty good start to hopefully a successful weekend.”

With the win, Keys is now 2-2 in live matches in Fed Cup competition.

In the second match, world No. 57 McHale outlasted former French Open finalist Samantha Stosur, ranked No. 26 in the world, in a tightly contested struggle, 3-6, 6-1, 7-5. This was McHale’s first victory over the Aussie in five attempts.

Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion, started powerfully against McHale, but the 23-year-old American was able to change the momentum in a second set that took only 25 minutes.

“I think I started playing a bit better in the second," McHale said after the match. "I think in the first I was letting her dictate too many points. So I think I was able to impose my game more in the second. This definitely was a really exciting win for me. I love playing Fed Cup and it just feels really good to help my team out today.”

Team USA is now in a great position heading into Sunday's final day of competition. The U.S. is 21-0 when leading after the first day of play (since the World Group format was instituted in 1995).

Each country’s top singles players will meet Sunday, with Keys set to battle Stosur, followed by the No. 2s facing off in McHale versus Gavrilova. Sunday’s schedule also features the doubles match pitting the American team of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe against Casey Dellacqua and Stosur. Captains can change their lineups prior to Sunday's play.

“We’ll re-evaluate tonight, we’ll talk to everybody, how they’re feeling, have a team meeting,” U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez said after the first day concluded. “But right now everything’s going to look the same for us.”

Coverage continues Sunday on the Tennis Channel at 11 a.m. local time (Saturday at 9 p.m. ET in the U.S.).