Aliaksandra Sasnovich fought back from a set down to beat Sloane Stephens and force a deciding rubber in the 2017 Fed Cup final in Minsk this afternoon. Earlier, CoCo Vandeweghe had put the United States 2-1 up by beating teenager Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7/5), 6-1.
Sasnovich beats Stephens for a second time
The world number 87 Sasnovich prevailed 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 in two hours and six minutes to chalk up her second win over Stephens, who has lost all of her six matches since winning the US Open title in September, in as many meetings. Vandeweghe and Shelby Rogers take on Sasnovich and Sabalenka for the title in a doubles clash later on Sunday.
Sasnovich admitted afterwards that it was one of the toughest and most tense games she has ever experienced. “I gave it everything I had; the tennis gods were on my side today. The support of the crowd helped me to stay concentrated throughout the game. It was a fantastic match”.
Both players produced a catalogue of unforced errors in the opening set but the 24-year-old American held on to take it after an early break. But in the second Stephens, ranked 13th in the world, suddenly ran out of gas allowing Sasnovich to break twice to level at one set all. In the deciding set, Stephens led 5-2 before Sasnovich, 23, roared back with four straight games before eventually closing it out 8-6.
In Sunday's early match, Sabalenka and Vandeweghe both played with confidence from the start on the hard court at a packed Minsk Chizhovka 8,000-capacity arena, holding their serves until the 11th game when Vandeweghe broke. But Sabalenka broke back immediately under the watchful gaze of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko to force a tiebreak, which the 25-year-old American won 7-5.
In the second Sabalenka, who is 78th in the world rankings, lost her nerve, allowing Vandeweghe to break twice for a commanding 5-0 lead minutes before she took the set and the match with an accurate backhand.
“I knew if I just kept giving myself opportunities and getting my nose in front in her service games, I'd keep getting opportunities and she'd eventually break down,' Vandeweghe told reporters. “She did what she's supposed to do and did what I expected her to do - just swing and pray for it to go in and she did. So you just got to recover and keep fighting. And then it showed in the second set, she withered when I kept the pressure on her, and then I just closed it out”.
wow...what a performance from the Belarusian women...outstanding stuff. — Martina Navratilova (@Martina) 12 November 2017