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US Open champ Stephens leads US in Fed Cup final vs. Belarus

US Open champ Stephens leads US in Fed Cup final vs. Belarus

Belarus, who are competing in the final for the first time, were 1-0 down after Coco Vandeweghe beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4 6-4 in the first singles match.

MINSK, Belarus-Sloane Stephens is back in the United States team for the Fed Cup final, and Victoria Azarenka is missing for Belarus. She won on a fourth match point when Stephens netted a forehand. The third set was literally insane: Stephens was up a break for three times in a row, but Sabalenka came back and broke her opponent on 5-4, converting the fourth match point.

Vendeweghe, who made her Fed Cup debut in the 2010 final defeat to Italy, said it didn't matter to her whether she played first or second.

"I'm full of emotions", Sabalenka said.

Yet at the tail-end of a year in which she reached the semi-finals of the Australian and US Opens as well as enjoying a run to the quarter-finals at the All England Club, Vandeweghe credits her coach, former Wimbledon men's champion Pat Cash, with keeping her hungry.

"I started flawless both sets with early breaks but it wasn't easy to close out on both occasions as Aliaksandra was very motivated and played really well today".

"Everyone is screaming your name, screaming [for] your team, screaming [for] your country", she said.

Vandeweghe also faced a boisterous crowd at the indoor hard court in Minsk as she played Sasnovich for the first time.

"I don't know much about the Belarus team", said Vandeweghe, with headline act Azarenka out for the home side amid a custody dispute.

Vandeweghe responded by breaking again in the ninth game and then held her serve to win the set and the match.

The players traded breaks early in the second set but Vandeweghe, playing with slightly more accuracy, went 3-1 up. "I'm very used to a team atmosphere first", the 25-year-old American said on a conference call from Minsk, where the November 11-12 Fed Cup decider will be held.

"I don't want to use the word "ooze" confidence, but I can't think of a better word".

If US Captain Kathy Rinaldi wins the title, she would be the first female to do so since Billie Jean King led the Americans to the last of their record 17 titles in 2000.