What a match. Unbelievably, Aliaksandra Sasnovich sealed an improbable comeback to stun Sloane Stephens 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 in the fourth rubber of the Fed Cup final and somehow brought Belarus back level at 2-2 in the Fed Cup final against the USA, sending the entertaining tie into a deciding doubles clash.
Trailing 2-5 in the final set, the encounter was all but over but the inspired Belarusian clawed her way back, producing some incredible tennis to keep her own country alive in the final. This loss was also Stephens’ sixth straight defeat after claiming the US Open trophy.
Stephens takes the early and pivotal break of serve
Coming into the fourth rubber, Sasnovich knew that nothing but a win will keep Belarus in contention for the title. Certainly, all the pressure were weighed on her shoulders and it clearly reflected on the scoreboard with her unforced errors proving to be costly in the early stages, with Stephens grabbing the break in the third game. Remaining solid on her own serve, the American was playing some good counter punching tennis and forced errors from the Belarusian, fending off a break point to consolidate the break for a 3-1 lead.
The American holds onto her lead and seals the opening set
Sasnovich continued to apply the pressure on the return hoping for a breakthrough but failed to convert her opportunities as Stephens continued to be clutch on the crucial points. Impressive net play from the American allowed her to fend off an incredible amount of four break points and narrowly holding onto her lead. This allowed her to be just one game away from winning the opening set, but Sasnovich was determined to provide a tough fight as she lessened the deficit to just one solitary game. However, Stephens was just too solid on her serve as she eventually served out the set 6-4.
Sasnovich overcomes early stutter and turns the table in her favor
Everything was going Stephens’ way as Sasnovich seemed to have run out of gas in the second set, conceding two break points in the opening game. Unexpectedly, a slew of unforced errors then witnessed the Belarusian narrowly holding her serve, grabbing the confidence-boosting hold. That proved to be the decisive moment in the second set as the momentum shifted its way to the Belarusian from then, and Stephens was soon becoming an error machine as Sasnovich broke for the first time in the match before prevailing in a tough game to consolidate the break.
The Belarusian seals the second set and brings the match into a decider
As the Belarusian powered herself to a commanding 3-0 lead, she grew in confidence and started swinging freely, hitting winners at her own ease with Stephens unable to find her groove. The American lost eight of the next nine points and found herself trailing 0-5, being just one game away from losing the second set. Though she managed to spare some embarrassment for herself by preventing a bagel, she was still unable to go against the well-controlled aggression from Sasnovich as the Belarusian closed out the second set 6-1 after just 35 minutes of play.
Stephens edges closer to the win
It was a tight start to the final set as both players were extremely solid on their serves and neither looked to make a breakthrough on the return. After five consecutive service holds, the fans finally witnessed a break of serve, but they were disappointed when Stephens took advantage of Sasnovich’s unforced errors and opened up a 4-2 lead. The crowd was left shell-shocked when Stephens easily consolidated the break and placed herself just one game away from the win.
Incredible comeback by Sasnovich
Within a blink of an eye, a sudden gush of adrenaline allowed Sasnovich to produce an improbable comeback and claim 12 of the next 15 points to return level at 5-5. The Belarusian was playing some of her best tennis, coming up with impressive down-the-line shots which got the home crowd all fired up. Breaking serve for a 6-5 lead, Sasnovich earned the golden opportunity to serve out the match and level the tie.
However, there was still more in store as Sasnovich finally felt the pressure and Stephens remained solid at the baseline, retrieving every ball back which allowed her to break straight back as well. With no tiebreak being contested, the players had to lead by a margin of two games for the win. Stephens’ old habits started to come back and haunt her, with her errors proving costly at the crucial moments as Sasnovich dictated play flawlessly and managed to break to love once more.
On her second attempt to serve out the match, the home player finally managed to seal the deal as she completed the incredible comeback from 2-5 down in the decider, taking the Fed Cup final into a deciding doubles rubber to decide the winner. Having just prevailed in this 143-minute thriller, Sasnovich was then nominated to contest the doubles just after this rubber ended.