Honours were split between Belarus and Germany after the first day of competition after Aryna Sabalenka defeated Tatjana Maria, impressively recovering from a set down to oust the German 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 after just an hour and 44-minutes of play.
Sending in a total of 41 winners compared to just six from her opponent, Sabalenka gave Belarus the early lead before her compatriot Aliaksandra Sasnovich’s shock loss to Antonia Lottner gave Germany a way back into the encounter. The score is tied at 1-1 after the first day, but the hosts are currently still the favorites to claim the win.
Maria steals the first set
Both players had solid starts into the match with neither of them looking to let loose on their serves. Sabalenka, without a doubt, is the one taking the initiative throughout all the rallies while Maria’s one-handed backhand was becoming a real weapon which the Belarusian had no answers to.
It was relatively obvious that Sabalenka was trying to make more net approaches but the German, who is the current world number 58, came up with multiple fantastic passing shot winners before she found herself one game away from taking the first set. Down 4-5 and having to play catch-up all-set long, Sabalenka faced the immense pressure of serving to stay in the set and it certainly affected her nerves she threw in countless errors to concede the maiden break point of the match, which Maria came out of nowhere to convert.
Sabalenka storms back
Sabalenka, who was exposed to the limelight during Fed Cup last year, rebounded perfectly from the loss of the first set as she earned her first break points of the encounter in the opening game of the second set, capitalizing on her opportunities to take the early lead. Swinging freely without any boundaries brought her some trouble, but it did not backfire as the Belarusian took a quick double-break advantage over the struggling German.
Maria failed to ride on her momentum and instead became more passive, allowing Sabalenka to stamp her authority across the court. Losing just four points off her service, the Belarusian had a walk in the park as she sealed the second set 6-1 after just a mere 26 minutes.
Sabalenka grabs the perfect start for Belarus
A marathon 12-minute game saw the youngster being broken by the experienced 30-year-old, after producing an array of unforced errors in the process. With Maria regaining the confidence, she seemed on course for the victory but Sabalenka had other ideas.
Blasting winner after winner, Sabalenka rattled off four consecutive games with her explosive game working well against Maria’s deadly backhand slices. Furthermore, the German only managed to hit one solitary winner throughout the decider. Claiming eight of the last 10 points, the hometown hero took the opening win and gave Belarus an early 1-0 lead. Sabalenka thus continues to live up to her status as a Fed Cup hero and will look to seal the win for her country on Sunday.