It took the deciding doubles match to seal the 18th Fed Cup title for the United States 3-2 over Belarus. Playing against a dogged Belarusian team in Minsk, CoCo Vandeweghe had to win all three of her matches to help Team USA grab hold of the hardware.
With the tie even at 1-1, Vandeweghe opened Day Two on Sunday with a 7-6 (1), 6-1 win over Aryna Sabalenka, following her Day One singles win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The 25-year-old is the first player to win eight Fed Cup matches in a season since 2005 and and the first to win six Fed Cup singles matches in a year since Petra Kvitova in 2011.
US Open champion Sloane Stephens looked more than ready to get her first win since those two perfect weeks in New York. The 24-year-old was up 5-2 in the third set over Sasnovich, with the feeling of the Fed Cup trophy almost in her hands. But the Belarusian would not go away. She stepped up her aggression, relying heavily on her impeccable backhand down-the-line to win the match, 4-6, 6-1, 8-6.
Suddenly, Belarus looked in contention to win in front of a packed and raucous Minsk home crowd (the ban on vuvuzelas is arriving far too late for tennis apparently). Sasnovich and Sabalenka were outmatched in experience as Vandeweghe has contested multiple Grand Slam doubles finals. But Shelby Rogers was the coldest player on the court after somewhat unexpectedly having to leave the bench.
The first set still went in the way of the Americans in dominant fashion, 6-3. But the long and emotional day of comebacks was not ready to close just yet.
The Belarusians settled in, with Sasnovich making magic happen from the baseline. The youngest player in the final match, 19-year-old Sabalenka proved to be the most unpredictable, with a few hot streaks amidst plenty of wild errors and shaky net plays.
Vandeweghe and Rogers would not be denied, fighting back from 5-2 down and two set points to win the Fed Cup title 6-3, 7-6 (3). Vandeweghe dropped the ground in disbelief, as she became third player in Fed Cup history to put up three points in a final.
The Belarusian team put forth a spirited performance in the final, losing their first tie in three years while nearly pulling off an almost unimaginable upset. Meanwhile, the United States will celebrate its first Fed Cup victory since 2000, in captain Kathy Rinaldi’s rookie season no less.
Vandeweghe finishes the season undefeated with six singles and two doubles wins. Next up for the world No. 10? Celebration and vacation.