The Fed Cup final began on Saturday between the favored United States and host-city supported Belarus.
CoCo Vandeweghe took to the court first against world No. 87 Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Vandeweghe maintained her unbeaten Fed Cup 2017 singles record to put Team USA up 1-0 thanks to a 6-4, 6-4 win.
The world No. 10 relied on her serve to help her through the nerves and rowdy partisan crowd pressure, with eight aces and 71 percent of her first serve won. The tension was high, with the blaring noise of vuvuzelas barreling down onto the court between every single point. While the 25-year-old Vandeweghe famously thrives on crowd energy, this was very different to being a favorite in New York City (where you last saw her reach the semifinals of the US Open).
Sasnovich, ranked No. 87, did her part to stay in the match, even staying with Vandeweghe to 4-4 in the second set. But Vandeweghe would not crack, maintaining her cool and rising to the occasion despite the 9,000 strong crowd of mostly red and green.
Great win by @cocovandey! tension incredible she was tough as old nails. USA 1-0 , got to win 3 to win this #fedcup https://t.co/yAFj75mwlu pic.twitter.com/yVKyDKfQXo
— Pat Cash (@TheRealPatCash) November 11, 2017
Next on was US Open champion Sloane Stephens against Belarus’ No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka. The young Belarusian came out firing to a 3-0 lead, as Stephens struggled to settle down, playing with tape on her left knee. Boosted by Stephens' shakiness, Sabalenka kept connecting on all the right shots to seal the opening set, 6-3.
While Vandeweghe came into the Fed Cup on a hot streak after reaching the Zhuhai final, world No. 13 Stephens hasn't won a match since the US Open. Sabalenka reached her first WTA final recently in Tianjin (losing to Maria Sharapova), rising to a career-high of No. 76 in October.
Stephens settled in, as the teenager lost her rhythm, with the moment seemingly overwhelming her. The American cruised to a 6-3 set to push the match into a decider. Both women were dealing with nerves in the third set, but it was the 19-year-old local hero that edged ahead 5-4. Stephens would save three match points before Sabalenka broke to secure the biggest win of her career, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
With the final tied 1-1, Vandeweghe will next take the court on Sunday against Sabalenka, with Stephens set to battle Sasnovich in the second singles match.