Venus shows no post-Aussie letdown in Fed Cup performance

February is generally a slow month in the tennis world. The top stars take this time to rest up for the intense spring Masters Series swing in Indian Wells and Miami.

Still, there is action taking place, and some interesting storylines are taking center stage.

Here's what's on our writers' minds in another edition of Racket Response:

Venus comes through for U.S.

Peter Bodo, ESPN.com: Venus Williams is writing her name larger and larger in the annals of Fed Cup play, and not a moment too soon. The days when the U.S. dominated (sometimes to an embarrassing degree) the women's version of Davis Cup are long gone -- so much so that the squad is presently engaged in a bitter struggle to get back into the elite eight-team World Group from which the annual champ emerges.

The U.S. took a significant step in that direction over the weekend in Hawaii, overpowering Poland as Williams won both her singles matches in a 4-0 sweep.

The wins lifted her Fed Cup singles record to 19-2. Only three women have won more: Billie Jean King, Lindsay Davenport and Chris Evert. Among those Williams has eclipsed? Tracy Austin, Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati and, yes, her sister Serena Williams, who is 16-1 in singles.

"I love playing," Venus told the press afterward. "I love looking forward to playing the next ties, seeing who we're going to play when the draw comes out. I love all of that."

After clinching with a win over Poland's Magda Linette, Williams sat on the U.S. bench watching Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Coco Vandeweghe win doubles.

"Not too often you have your peers and your friends watching your match and cheering you on," Mattek-Sands told the press. "It's just such an individual sport. But Venus is a great team player."

Worth the wait for Burgos

Carl Bialik, FiveThirtyEight.com: Until the week he turned 28, Victor Estrella Burgos had never reached the main draw of a tour-level event outside of Davis Cup, where he was a stalwart for the Dominican Republic in matches far below the World Group.

Until he was a month shy of 33, Estrella Burgos never won a main-draw match in an ATP event.

Until he was nearly 34, he hadn't played in the main draw of a Grand Slam or won his second ATP match.

But men's tennis today is a sport that rewards perseverance and patience. Since July 2014, Estrella Burgos has won 32 tour-level matches, including consecutive titles in Quito, Ecuador. On Sunday, he recovered from losing the first set to Thomaz Bellucci, coming back with bold serves at Bellucci's forehand on critical points.

It's hard to see Estrella Burgos rising much higher than his No. 56 ranking. He is just 5-foot-8 and primarily slices his one-handed backhand. Then again, three years ago it was hard to imagine him winning a match at a tour event, let alone win two more career titles than Gilles Muller and Julien Benneteau.

Anxiously awaiting Baby Murray

Alexander Perry, ESPN UK: As the tennis world goes into its post-Australian Open hibernation with little on-court action to keep our interest, the question many British fans have is: Have Andy and Kim Murray had their baby yet?

We haven't heard a peep from the British No. 1 since he lost to Novak Djokovic in the Melbourne final, where he announced he was getting on the first plane home to see his "legend" of a wife. His Twitter account hasn't been updated since Jan. 27, while his Facebook page -- almost certainly run by a third party -- has been nothing but self-promotion.

Murray is a keen social media user, and we're sure we'll be the first to know once Murray Jr. -- due this week -- is welcomed into the world.

Who's trending high and low


Karolina Pliskova: The Czech nearly highhandedly took down Romania in Fed Cup by herself. Pliskova upset Simona Halep, who postponed her nose surgery to play in the tie, in the opening rubber. Pliskova then beat Monica Niculescu before teaming with Barbora Strycova to win the fifth and deciding match.


Borna Coric: One of the game's touted up-and-comers, Coric has lost three straight first-round matches since opening the season with a run to the final in Chennai, India. Last week, the 19-year-old Croatian fell to Michael Berrer at the Open Sud De France, which was just a week after Coric lost an uninspired opening match in Australia. Coric is scheduled to play at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament this week.

News and notes

  • Thirteen Americans will be in action at the Memphis Open this week, the first of 10 events on U.S. soil this season. Five of those Americans are part of the talented teenage contingent that has U.S. tennis feeling optimistic once again. According to the ATP World Tour, that number surpasses the previous tournament record of four in 1989.

  • Rafael Nadal returns to action this week at the Argentina Open. It will be his first event since falling to countryman Fernando Verdasco in the opening round of the Australian Open. Nadal could face Juan Monaco in the Spaniard's first match. Last year, Nadal beat Monaco in the final.