MINSK, November 11, 2017
With the Fed Cup trophy shining courtside on Saturday and a sell-out crowd, each top player for the U.S. and Belarus Fed Cup Team prevailed on Day 1 of the World Group Final in Minsk, ending the day with the tie even at 1-1. This sets up two pivotal ‘reverse’ singles matchups and the possible decisive doubles rubber on Sunday.
In Saturday’s first match, top-ranked American and world No. 10 CoCo Vandeweghe defeated Belarus No. 2 and world No. 87 Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 6-4, 6-4, in just over an hour and a half. This was Vandeweghe’s and Sasnovich’s first-ever meeting. Vandeweghe is now 5-3 in singles play in Fed Cup, winning her last five singles matches. Sasnovich is now 13-8 in singles in her 17th tie. It was her first Fed Cup loss of the year.
“You always feel a lot better when you get a break in the first game. From there, there was nothing really threatening me. I don’t believe she had a breakpoint in that first set,” Vandeweghe told.
“Then the second set, it was a little bit disappointing. I knew she would come with fight in the second set. But mostly the second break that I had at 4-3, I had 40-0, kind of had a brain fart moment. Otherwise, I was really pleased with how I played, how everything transpired from the fight she gave, to the crowd, to my own crowd that was there. I was really happy from there.”
Sabalenka Levels The Tie
Belarus then leveled the tie in the second singles match, as their top-ranked player and world No. 76 Aryna Sabalenka defeated American No. 2 and world No. 13 Sloane Stephens, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
Momentum shifted many times in the final set with seven breaks of serve. In the end, after four match points, 19-year-old Sabalenka came out with the victory. This was also the first meeting between the two players.
— Fed Cup (@FedCup) 11. November 2017
“I’ve never felt so much emotion in a match,” the teenager from Belarus said afterwards. “When you play at home and you are down 0-1 and you have to win and you fight with yourself. My game was not so good. I was fighting with myself and finally I did it. I just started crying because it was such an important match.”
Stephens, who is competing in her first Fed Cup tie since the 2016 World Group II First Round, is now 2-3 in Fed Cup singles play.
“My knee was fine. I feel I played a good player. She had a great crowd out there today. It was always going to be a tough match, no matter what,” Stephens said.
“I think I could have done a few things different. But all in all, I just fought as hard as I could. I competed really well. That’s all I can really ask for.”
Preview Day 2
The first match is scheduled to pit American No. 1 CoCo Vandeweghe against Belarus No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka, both winners on Day 1. Vandeweghe and Sabalenka have never played previously. Both players have had a strong year in Fed Cup competition, with Vandeweghe now 5-0 in singles play this year and Sabalenka clinching the victory for Belarus in the fourth singles rubber in both the first round and semifinals this year.
The day’s second singles rubber is scheduled between No. 2s Sloane Stephens and Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Sasnovich has one career win over Stephens in 2015 in the Seoul quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-2.
Nominated for the doubles rubber, played after a 30-minute break following the second singles match, are Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske for the U.S. and Vera Lapko and Lidziya Marozava for Belarus. Rogers and Riske have played together in doubles once on the WTA Tour–in Charleston in 2015. They also played together on three separate occasions on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2012 and 2013. Lapko and Marozava have never played doubles together.