Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula put U.S. up 2-0 in BJK Cup qualifier

Delray Beach, Fla (Agencies): Coco Gauff enjoyed playing in front of family and friends in a Billie Jean King Cup qualifier in her hometown of Daytona Beach, Florida, on Friday, teaming with Jessica Pegula — who also lives nearby — to give the United States a 2-0 lead over Austria.

The No. 6-ranked Gauff, the runner-up at last year’s French Open, beat Julia Grabher 6-1, 6-3, before No. 3 Pegula defeated Sinja Kraus 6-0, 7-5. At No. 78, Grabher is the only member of Austria’s roster ranked inside the WTA’s top 150.

The best-of-five-match contest continues Saturday with up to two matches in singles and one in doubles. If the Americans win any one of those, they’ll clinch a spot in the 12-nation BJK Cup finals from Nov. 7-12.

There are nine qualifiers being held around the world on Friday and Saturday, including Canada hosting Belgium. Leylah Fernandez, the 2021 US Open runner-up, gave Canada a 1-0 edge with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Yanina Wickmayer. Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure tied it by outlasting Rebecca Marino 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Earlier on Day 1, Barbora Krejcikova earned her first career BJK Cup singles victory, 6-4, 6-3 over Katarina Zavatska, to put the Czech Republic ahead of Ukraine 2-0 at Antalya, Turkey, after 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova defeated Marta Kostyuk 6-2, 6-1.

In other results: Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina got past Weronika Falkowska 6-3, 6-4, before Yulia Putintseva topped Australian Open semifinalist Magda Linette 7-5, 6-3, to give host Kazakhstan a 2-0 edge against Poland; Caroline Garcia won in three sets and Alizé Cornet won in two — every set in each match went to a tiebreaker — to put France ahead 2-0 at Britain; Sara Sorribes Tormo’s 6-0, 6-0 blanking of Fernanda Contreras Gomez helped Spain grab a 2-0 lead against visiting Mexico; Italy leads host Slovakia 2-0; Romania is up 2-0 against host Slovenia; and Germany and visiting Brazil are tied at 1-all.

The nine countries that win Saturday will join reigning champion Switzerland, 2022 runner-up Australia and one wild-card recipient at the finals.