Barty wins opening Fed Cup match before USA hit back

Peter Mitchell, AAP US Correspondent

Australia's Ashleigh Barty has beaten America's Sofia Kenin in their opening singles match of the Fed Cup in North Carolina.

Barty, Australia's top-ranked player and world No.13, won 6-1 7-6 on Saturday in Asheville to set up a potential upset of the Americans in the first round World Group tie.

Kenin, 37th in the world after winning the recent Hobart International, appeared no match for Barty until late in the second set.

Barty got the Aussies off to the perfect start against USA. Pic: Getty

Barty was up 5-4 and had two match points, but Kenin broke the Australian to force the tiebreaker.

Madison Keys then squared the ledger for the USA after a comfortable straight sets victory over Kimberly Birrell.

The World No.17 had too much class for the 20-year-old Aussie, rounding out a commanding 6-2 6-2 win to leave the tie at one rubber apiece.

It sets up an intense deciding day of the first round world group Fed Cup tie on Sunday (Monday AEDT).

World No.13 Barty will face Keys and Birrell, 157th in the world, will play 37th ranked Kenin in the remaining singles rubbers.

Barty and Daria Gavrilova will play American duo Nicole Melichar and Danielle Collins in the doubles.

The winner of the tie will move on to play Belarus or Germany in the Fed Cup semi-finals in April.