Tennis roundup: U.S. team breaks Fed Cup losing streak against Russia

Russia and the United States will play a Billie Jean King Cup semifinal on Sunday, Nov. 19, in a rematch of last month’s head-to-head clash between the two nations. The United States won the tiebreaker in their Oct. 1 win over Russia by two points, and the two sides were involved in several tense moments, including a 16-15 decison in which Maria Sharapova, the U.S. No. 1, was forced to serve five games in a row in the final set. Sharapova, however, was a strong second serve specialist, and that seemed to hold up in the end, allowing Venus Williams to bring a thrilling match to a close. The U.S. team will hope to repeat the victory while Russian players will be looking to end a U.S. streak that stretches back to the Billie Jean King Tennis Classic in Houston in 2016. The American team have won every competition since then.

Novak Djokovic will play his first match since Wimbledon on Saturday as he pursues his quest for a fifth consecutive win over Roberto Bautista Agut. The top-ranked Djokovic has dropped just 10 games in two previous matches against Bautista Agut, who has struggled to stay injury-free over the past 18 months and reached the U.S. Open final but lost to eventual champion Marin Cilic. Seven-time Australian Open champion Djokovic is 19-3 with three titles this year. He will be facing an experienced opponent in Bautista Agut, but has the kind of serve that is difficult for anyone to deal with. Bautista Agut is a nine-time winner on the ATP Tour, and is a red-hot form since winning the ATP Valencia Open in September.

Olympic champion Katie Ledecky is looking for her third straight victory in the Olympic Series meet in her pursuit of a record fourth consecutive 800-meter freestyle victory. Ledecky took the lead early in the race, then watched as 10 swimmers contested the final stretch to the finish line in 2 minutes, 5.04 seconds. An American held the top spot in every individual event and every relay at this event until Ledecky broke the 1-minute barrier at the Rio Olympics last year. Monica Austin of Australia has the top U.S. time for the 800 with a mark of 8:01.64, but Ledecky edged her time by more than three seconds at U.S. nationals two weeks ago.

Olympic gold medalist Vivian Cheruiyot leads a strong Kenyan contingent at the $255,000 Torino City Classic in front of one of the best crowds at the ITU Continental Cups this year. Cheruiyot, who won the World Championship in Beijing last year, will face stiff competition from reigning Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele. Cheruiyot has been on a rampage this year, winning all five of her races, including a world-record performance in the Diamond League in Doha. Cheruiyot beat Bekele to win the Diamond League event in Paris. The Torino City Classic will be the second event of Cheruiyot’s season. She also won the Canadian Open at Montreal earlier this month.

Steve Johnson defeated his U.S. team-mate Jack Sock 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Friday to advance to Saturday’s semifinal. Johnson will meet the winner of the semifinal between Russia’s Karen Khachanov and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.

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