Belarus surprises higher-rated Swiss team to reach its first-ever Fed Cup final
MINSK, Belarus (AP) Belarus surprised a higher-rated Swiss team 3-2 to reach its first-ever Fed Cup final Sunday.
No. 125-ranked Aryna Sabalenka gave the Belarusians an unassailable 3-1 lead in the best-of-five match as she beat Viktorija Golubic 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. The Swiss then won a dead rubber.
The Belarusian victory sets up a final against the United States in November, when Belarus should have the services of former No. 1-ranked player Victoria Azarenka.
With the two-time Australian Open champion due to return to competition in July after taking time out to raise her first child, Belarus was left with the No. 96-ranked Aliaksandra Sasnovich as its team leader.
Sasnovich stepped up in style, beating Golubic 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 on Saturday and then Timea Bacsinszky 6-2, 7-6 (2) in Sunday's first rubber.
All three of the Belarusian singles wins this weekend came against players ranked at least 40 places higher.
The Swiss recorded one win Saturday, when Bacsinszky beat Sabalenka 6-4, 7-5, and another when Martina Hingis and Belinda Bencic cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 defeat of Olga Govortsova and Vera Lapko in the last dead doubles rubber.
Switzerland had been seeking to reach its second Fed Cup final. Veteran Hingis also played in its first final in 1998, winning two rubbers and losing the decisive doubles encounter in a 3-2 loss to Spain.
Azarenka watched this weekend's match with the Belarusian team and joined their celebrations only to receive an accidental kick to the face from Sabalenka as the 18-year-old was hoisted aloft by her teammates. Azarenka seemed surprised but reacted with good cheer.
''It's okay,'' she wrote on Twitter, commenting on footage of the incident. ''See you in the final!''