Belarus' Aliaksandra Sasnovich returns the ball to USA's Sloane Stephens on November 12, 2017 in Minsk, during their Fed Cup final match
Minsk (AFP) - Aliaksandra Sasnovich battled back from a set down to force the deciding fifth rubber in Sunday’s Fed Cup final with a victory over Sloane Stephens of USA to draw Belarus level at 2-2.
Earlier on Sunday CoCo Vandeweghe put USA 2-1 up beating the Belarus teenager Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7⁄5), 6-1.
Sasnovich, 87th in the world, prevailed 4-5, 6-1, 8-6 in two hours six minutes to chalk up her second win over Stephens, who has lost every match since winning the US Open title in September, in as many meetings.
“It was one of the most tense matches in my life,” Sasnovich said.
“I gave everything I have for the win, the god of tennis was 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 Stephens broke her rival’s serve to lead 1-0 after 42 minutes.
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 after one hour 10 minutes on court.
In the deciding set the rivals traded breaks twice before Sasnovich, 23, produced the deciding break in the 13th game minutes before she took the set and the match.
In Sunday’s early match Sabalenka and Vandeweghe both played with confidence from the start on the hard-court at the packed Minsk Chizhovka 8,000-seat 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 to take a one-set lead after 50 minutes on court.
In the second Sabalenka, who is 78th in the world, suddenly lost her nerve allowing Vandeweghe to break twice for a commanding 5-0 lead minutes before she took the set and the match sealing her victory 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 said.
“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.”
On the opening day Vandeweghe put USA into the lead with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich, while Sabalenka beat Stephens 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 to pull the scores level at 1-1.