Coco Vandeweghe continued to live up to her status as a Fed Cup hero for the USA as she defeated the fearless Aryna Sabalenka in the third rubber, triumphing in straight sets to give her country an important win for a 2-1 lead against Belarus. Coming into this encounter with a tremendous amount of pressure as the highest-ranked American, Vandeweghe saved a set point in the first set before strolling to claim a 7-6, 6-1 win after an hour and 30 minutes of play.
Tight start to the match and Sabalenka holds her nerves
Nerves certainly weren’t a thing for both players, with both of them winning their rubbers on the first day of play. Being just at the young age of 19, Sabalenka showed no signs of nervousness, and instead, displayed a fearless performance as the Belarusian opened the match with a comfortable service hold, serving two aces in the process. Vandeweghe followed suit with another hold, and she threatened to make an early breakthrough in the third game. The American earned a break point with some powerful and deep returns, but a 189 km/h unreturnable serve by Sabalenka allowed her to eventually remain on serve.
Sabalenka fails to convert a set point
With both players swinging freely and serving without pressure, the first set started with ten consecutive service holds but Sabalenka came out of nowhere to earn a set point in the tenth game. Coming up with some big returns and bullet-like groundstrokes, Sabalenka had the golden opportunity to close out the set but Vandeweghe showed some nerves of steel and narrowly held her serve for 5-5.
Vandeweghe comes out of nowhere and seals the first set 7-6
Sabalenka would have rued her missed opportunities when she was immediately broken in the next game, but the changeover allowed her to regain her composure and break straight back to send the set into a tiebreak. The first set looked all to be over when the Belarusian powered to a commanding 4-1 lead in the tiebreak but a slight misfocus let Vandeweghe clinch five straight points and eventually take the first set after 58 minutes of play.
Vandeweghe doing everything right
Everything started going wrong for Sabalenka after losing the first set despite taking a toilet break. Vandeweghe’s serve started to flow in smoothly while the home player soon became an error machine. Unforced errors came off her racquet more often than ever, and the American quickly found herself up 3-0 within a blink of an eye.
The American edges closer to the win
As the error count increased, her frustration increased as well. Despite the loud cheers from the partisan crowd, Sabalenka allowed her anger to overwhelm her and the match was all but over after she lost her service game for the second consecutive time. Giving up just one point on serve in three games, Vandeweghe easily consolidated the break for a formidable 5-0 lead in the second set.
Vandeweghe seals the rubber for the USA
The Belarusian then spared some embarrassment by sealing an inspired service hold to prevent the bagel, but she looked on course for an improbable comeback when she earned her first break points of the second set at 1-5. Nonetheless, Vandeweghe remained composed and sent in some powerful serves, taking the pivotal win for the USA eventually.