Kharkiv, Ukraine – Christina McHale and Serena Williams won singles matches Saturday to give the United States a 2-0 lead in a Fed Cup playoff against the Ukraine.
McHale earned the first point of the day for the Americans with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win over Lesia Tsurenko before Williams steamrolled 17-year-old Elena Svitolina, 6-2, 6-1.
The United States needs just one win on Sunday, in either reverse singles or doubles, to clinch the best-of-five tie and advance to the World Group for the 2013 Fed Cup. The loser will be relegated to World Group II next year.
By rank, it was supposed to be a rout for the Americans despite the road matchup on red clay. Williams, a 13-time Grand Slam champ, is ranked ninth in the world and McHale is 36th. Tsurenko is 110th and Svitolina is 171st.
McHale needed just 34 minutes to wrap up the first set, but Tsurenko battled back and forced a third. A double-fault by McHale gave Tsurenko the second set, but the American opened a 3-0 lead in the third with a pair of breaks. She gave one back, then broke at love in the final game to secure the match.
"In the third set it was pretty close, going back and forth, but I managed to hold my serve for 5-3 and then I played a good game to close it out," said McHale. "I didn't want to let my team down, so I was happy with the way I started in the third."
Williams then had little trouble with the unknown Svitolina, polishing off the overwhelmed teenager in a mere 60 minutes. The 30-year-old American veteran had her serve broken twice, but broke Svitolina seven times.
After Svitolina posted a surprise break of serve to make it 2-2 in the opening set, Williams ripped off the next nine games. She dropped just four points in the final four games of the first set, then broke at love to start the second and cruised through the next four games before losing serve again. Another Williams break completed the rout.
Williams, who improved to 7-0 in singles Fed Cup play with Saturday's win, will have the first chance to close it out on Sunday in the opening reverse singles match against Tsurenko. McHale and Svitolina are then slated to play the second singles match before the doubles rubber features Americans Liezel Huber and Sloane Stephens against the Ukrainian sister duo of Lyudmyla and Nadiya Kichenok.
This is the first Fed Cup matchup between the 17-time champion U.S. and the Ukraine.