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Fine finish for Hawaii’s first Fed Cup

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    Venus Williams defeated Poland’s Magna Linette 6-1, 6-2 at the Fed Cup in Kailua-Kona on Sunday.

KAILUA-KONA >> Fittingly, Venus Williams wrote the storybook ending to Hawaii’s first Fed Cup adventure Sunday. Her words were formed with huge serves, that ridiculous forehand down the line and her infinite tennis wisdom.

The 35-year-old, ranked 12th in the world, clinched a U.S. victory at Holua Tennis Center by overwhelming No. 96 Magda Linette, 6-1, 6-2. That win over Poland’s No. 1 player — this weekend anyway — gave the Americans an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

“This has been the most enthusiastic crowd I’ve ever played in front of, for Fed Cup, or even at home.”

Venus Williams
Professional tennis player

Saturday, Williams and 25th-ranked Sloane Stephens got hard-earned straight-set victories. It took Williams an hour Sunday to clinch the Americans’ 145th Fed Cup tie victory — they are 38-6 at home.

They find out Tuesday who they play in the World Group Playoffs in April. A win would move the Americans into the 2017 World Group, giving them a chance to extend their record of 17 Fed Cups.

World Group winners this weekend — in the final four for 2016 — were defending Fed Cup champion Czech Republic, Switzerland, France and Netherlands.

Following Williams’ win, Bethanie Mattek-Sands — No. 6 in the WTA doubles ranking — and CoCo Vandeweghe kept the U.S. perfect with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Polish captain Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Paula Kania.

In four Fed Cup ties, the U.S. has yet to lose a match to the Polish team. This one was over three hours before the Super Bowl kicked off. It might have been over when fourth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska declined to play for her team.

It didn’t matter to 2,004 fans who snapped up all the tickets quicker than the 1992 Davis Cup sellout down the coast at Mauna Lani. They sat in a brutal sun Saturday that was complemented by wind so gusty Sunday it knocked off Williams’ visor — twice.

There were no complaints from a Hawaii tennis community desperate to see their game played at the highest levels.

“I think it’s important to grow tennis in countries that don’t see it very often, in communities that don’t see it very often,” U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. “It’s nice to be here playing Fed Cup for the first time and get new fans, hopefully encourage new children, new players to get involved in the game. This is one way of doing that.”

At the end, the winning American team gratefully admitted this first Fed Cup tie in Hawaii was definitely not all about results. The means — dynamic talent, chemistry, the crazy crowd and unique beauty of the setting — contributed to the end.

“When Mary Joe first said the tie was in Hawaii, I literally threw my hands up in the air, I kid you not,” said Williams, now 23-4 in Fed Cup. “I was like, ‘Yes!’ I’ve just been very excited since then, just pumped to be here.

“This has been the most enthusiastic crowd I’ve ever played in front of, for Fed Cup, or even at home. The enthusiasm, exciting. When they announced they were going to play the doubles, the crowd was so excited. You can hear them right now. It’s just been a pleasure to play for that.”

Williams missed introductions — “I was in the bathroom. Yeah, they started without me. The show must go on.” But, she was sitting in the sun to watch the entertaining second set of doubles, when her teammates rallied from 4-2 down.

It ended with a Vandeweghe ace. Williams’ runaway closed with a 109-mph serve followed by an emphatic overhead. Linette, who played so well against Stephens Saturday, needed nearly an hour to earn a break point. Her serve was assaulted by Williams and the wind.

“I was thinking to try to keep at first the ball in the court as much as I can,” said Linette, who had never faced Williams before. “Obviously she’s great player. Wherever I slowed down in the beginning, she used it, she went for it. She was just better than me today. She is more experienced.

“Until you go on the court and actually face her, you cannot prepare. At least me, I first need to feel the ball on the racquet to see how it is.”

Williams gave her no shot, in any way, shape or form. She has won seven grand slam singles titles and this year hopes to add to her four gold medals at the Olympics. Fed Cup is a hugely enjoyable bonus.

“I have a really good time on the team. It’s just a fun time,” Williams said. “You don’t usually get to do this in tennis. It’s a different experience that you don’t get to have when you grow up as a tennis player, and you’re always solo from beginning to the end. It’s a moment where it’s a break from that.”


As part of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Fed Cup Legacy program, the four tennis courts at Old Airport Park in Kailua-Kona will be renovated.

The USTA will create four courts with the “U.S. Open blue” surface and a kid-friendly area of the park with youth-sized tennis courts. A state-of-the-art lighting system also will be installed. December is the project’s tentative completion date.

The legacy program, started more than a decade ago, is “designed to leave a lasting mark in the communities that host Fed Cup ties in the United States.”

Old Kona Airport closed in 1970 and is now a mile-long beach and state park with the old runway serving as a parking lot and the airport’s old terminal building as a pavilion.

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