tennis 4 days ago

United States beats Belarus to win its 18th Fed Cup title

The Associated Press — By SANDRA HARWITT - Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — A 17-year championship drought came to an end Sunday for the United States when it beat Belarus 3-2 to take its 18th Fed Cup title.

CoCo Vandeweghe and Shelby Rogers defeated Aryna Sabalenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the deciding doubles of the 2017 final. It was the first Fed Cup title for the U.S. since 2000.

"It feels perfectly believable and unbelievable," Vandeweghe said. "I'm ready for a vacation."

The Belarus pair led 5-2 in the second set and served to level at one-set apiece in the eighth, 10th and 12th games. The Americans dominated the tiebreaker, winning five of the last six points.

Sasnovich had kept Belarus alive after beating U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 to leave the final level at 2-2 on the indoor hard-court Chizhovka Arena.

Vandeweghe earlier beat Sabalenka 7-6 (5), 6-1 to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead.

Kathy Rinaldi, in her inaugural season in charge of the Americans, became the first female captain in the tournament to lead a Fed Cup team to victory since Billie Jean King for the U.S. in 2000.

"It's been an incredible ride thanks to these ladies," Rinaldi said. "We're family and we've had each other's backs. This was a very tough match."

The U.S. holds the most Fed Cup titles in the international team competition. This was its fourth Fed Cup final since last winning in 2000. It lost the 2003, 2009 and 2010 finals.

Belarus was making its first appearance in a Fed Cup final.

"We are really satisfied we gained this result," Belarus captain Eduard Dubrou said. "Today's match has showed we have a good team because last time we faced the team of USA it was 5-love and today we were really close to a good result for us."

Vandeweghe proved the difference between the two teams. She has won all eight Fed Cup matches she's played this season — six singles and two doubles. Vandeweghe is the first player to win eight matches since the current eight-team World Group format was introduced in 2005.

"I had a great time out there," Vandeweghe said. "I really relished in that moment of having the crowd against me and firing myself up and believing in myself."

The 25-year-old Vandeweghe is also the first player to win the maximum six Fed Cup singles in a year since Petra Kvitova for the Czech Republic in 2011.

Stephens has lost six matches since winning the U.S. Open in September. She lost both singles matches here in Minsk, including to Sabalenka on Saturday.

Stephens served for the match against Sasnovich at 5-3 in the third set, but was unable to clinch the title for the United States. It took Sasnovich two attempts, at 6-5 and 7-6 in the third set, to serve out the match.

Sabalenka had an opportunity to take an early lead against Vandeweghe when leading 5-4 but failed to take advantage of a set point on Vandeweghe's serve in the 10th game.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the tiebreaker but surrendered her lead to a more measured Vandeweghe, who clinched the first set when the Belarussian blasted a forehand wide while going for a winner.

Vandeweghe then jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Sabalenka won her only game of the second set.

"I know she was going to keep swinging," Vandeweghe said. "I know what I had to do and knew what I expected she would do. I just kept the pressure on."

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