EVERETT — Talk about a 1-2 punch.
The U.S. Fed Cup team will open its qualifier against Latvia tonight with Sofia Kenin, fresh off an Australian Open title, and Serena Williams, arguably the greatest women’s tennis player in history.
Kenin, who was designated as the U.S. No. 1 player by captain Kathy Rinaldi, will play Anastasija Sevastova, Latvia’s No. 2 player, at 7:30 p.m.
That match will be followed by Williams, the designated No. 2 player for the Americans, taking on Jelena Ostapenko, Latvia’s No. 1.
The best-of-five match event will conclude Saturday with two reverse singles matches and a doubles match. Kenin, 21, opens Saturday’s play against Ostapenko at 3:30 p.m., followed by Williams against Sevastova.
Alison Riske and Bethanie Mattek-Sands are slated to play doubles against Ostapenko and Sevastova.
Williams, 38, has won 23 majors and is undoubtedly the biggest draw in the event.
She is 13-0 in singles matches for the U.S. in the Fed Cup, but this will be her first time playing singles for the American team since 2015.
Her first appearance for the U.S. team came in 1999.
“As a tennis player, you always play for yourself, but when you come to this team atmosphere … it’s just a really cool thing that we don’t get to experience often as tennis players,” Williams saidy, when asked about her success in the event. “I guess it makes me excited to go out there and do the best that I can for my team and to play for my country, and having an opportunity to show and shine in the best way that I can on that day.”
Kenin, who moved to No. 7 in the world rankings after winning the Australian Open, and Williams, ranked No. 9, would have to be considered favorites today, but victory is anything but certain.
Ostapenko, ranked No. 40 in the world, has been ranked as high as No. 5.
The 22-year-old won the 2017 French Open. Sevastova, 29, is ranked No. 41 and has been ranked as high as No. 5.
Kenin enters today’s match less than a week after claiming the biggest title of her career at the Australian Open.
“I love coming to Fed Cup and representing my country,” said Kenin, who knocked out Fed Cup teammate Coco Gauff in the fourth round at the Australian Open. “It’s such an honor and privilege to be part of this team.”