Fed Cup Tampa. Day One

After the first day of play, we’re all even in Tampa. Coco Vandeweghe struck first for Team USA, defeating 17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova in straight-sets. Katerina Siniakova responded with a straight-sets win over Shelby Rogers…

Coco Vandeweghe def. Marketa Vondrouseva 6-1, 6-4

Good news: Coco’s Australian Open swagger is back.

Many weren’t sure which version of the World #24 we’d see this weekend. After her career-best Semifinal run at the Australian Open in January, she scored a pair of Fed Cup wins over Andrea Petkovic and Julia Georges in Maui. Since then, she hasn’t won a single match. It’s been two months.

In Dubai, she fell to Fed Cup teammate Alison Riske in Round-1. At Indian Wells and Miami, she enjoyed first round byes, then lost three-setters to Lucie Safarova and Jana Cepelova, only picking up a single game in each third set; not exactly “confidence-boosting” performances to take into the clay season.

And that was the other question mark…Captain Kathy Rinaldi chose green clay for the Semifinal at Saddlebrook. Clay has been Coco’s kryptonite. Tack on the fact that Saturday’s opponent had just won her first WTA tour title the previous weekend in Biel and fans had reason to feel nervous, despite Vandeweghe’s superior ranking.

Coco answered those concerns early, only allowing 17-year-old Marketa Vondrouseva a single game in the first set. Marketa got back on the board before the first sit-down in set-2, as Coco took a mental vacation, spraying shots long and wide. The two traded sloppy breaks over the next four games, with Coco earning a code violation after a frustrated racquet smash. Up 4-3, Coco locked-in, regained her deadly serve, and finally held. Vondrousova answered with a hold of her own, before Vandeweghe unleashed four pounding serves to put Team USA ahead.

Coco Vandeweghe after the match: “I definitely had a huge mental lapse, which happens from time to time…But I was able to keep coming back because I had a really good beat on her serve. I think I used that to my advantage when it came to important points.”

Katerina Siniakova def. Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-3

Both Fed Cup singles rookies, Shelby Rogers and Katerina Siniakova each had their share of pre-match heebeegeebees on Saturday. Going in, I assumed the higher-ranked Lauren Davis would be Captain Rinaldi’s #2, rather than Shelby Rogers. However, after Shelby’s Quarterfinal run on the clay in Charleston, Kathy clearly wanted to capitalize on surface comfort and momentum. Siniakova fell to Monica Puig in Charleston’s first round, then lost early at the hands of Sara Sorribes Tormo last week in Bogota. Rhythm appeared to favor the American.

Appearances are deceiving.

In a blink, Katerina Siniakova was up 4-0 on Rogers and it looked like we’d have an early pool-time at Saddlebrook. Shelby then earned her first game, breaking back before the second sit-down. At 4-1, the two traded breaks again, before Shelby earned her first hold of the match. Siniakova, though, was able to hang-on, and served-out the set 6-3.

The two battled through the first four games of the second set, then Katerina found another gear, blistering groundstrokes to break Shelby at love. Four games later, it was all over. While Rogers elevated her level of play in set-2, the pressure of the moment proved too much; serving-up a double fault on match point.

Shelby Rogers after the match: “I think now I understand why it’s so difficult to win your debut Fed Cup (singles) match…It’s definitely a different atmosphere. I struggled with my serve a little bit and a little with the backhand, but she played very well, didn’t miss many balls and didn’t give me many free points.”

Day-2. Who will play tomorrow’s second singles rubber?

Kathy Rinaldi and Petr Pala aren’t showing their cards for tomorrow’s big finish. Common sense for both teams says play Vandeweghe versus Siniakova in the first reverse-singles rubber. I don’t think there’s any doubt that’s what will happen. However, both teams have realistic alternates for the day’s second event. We could even see changes in the doubles line-ups should it become the deciding match.

Sheduled to play, based on the draw:

R3: CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) v Katerina Siniakova (CZE)

R4: Shelby Rogers (USA) v Marketa Vondrusova (CZE)

R5: Mattek-Sands/Davis (USA) v Allertova/Pliskova (CZE)

Will Lauren Davis step-in for Shelby Rogers? Will Petr favor Kristyna Pliskova over Marketa Vondrousova? Who is a definite to play doubles tomorrow besides World #1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands?

Those answers and more tomorrow starting at 10:30a. We’ll launch into the day with another Kid’s Clinic followed by a special ceremony and anthems. Ball-up is at 11:08a local time, live on Tennis Channel.