World no. 10 Ayrna Sabalenka had to play at her best to fight off the challenge from Australia’s Sam Stosur. The Belarusian taking the opening rubber between Australia and Belarus.Embed from Getty Images Photo: Ashleigh Barty of Australia plays a forehand in her match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
After Sabalenka’s win, it was Ash Barty that got Australia level as she defeated Victoria Azarenka in the second rubber. Barty extending her Fed Cup win streak to 12.
Barty’s last Fed Cup loss came back in February 2017 where she lost to Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.
Sabalenka and Stosur both had trouble holding serve. More breaks of serve took place than players holding serve. There were 16 service breaks in the first two sets.
Stosur would so often break, only to be broken in the next game. She was serving for the first set at 5-4 before Sabalenka broke twice to take the set.
The second set was much the same, this time Stosur held at a key moment to close out the set.
Sabalenka then was able to get a break in the third set and actually consolidate the break for a 4-1 lead. Stosur was not able to fight back from that position.
“I think it was a really good match, and unfortunately I came off second best, but there’s not much to be ashamed of,’’ Stosur said. “I hit the ball well, I hit it hard, I did what I wanted to be doing, and I think a couple of moments in that third set she came up with some pretty clutch returns and little pick-ups, and that’s why she’s top 10. But overall, very pleased.’’
Barty took her win streak in Fed Cup to 12 and ended Azarenka’s streak at 13, dating back to 2010.
The opening set was a tight affair with a key moment coming with Barty down 0-40 at 5-5. She hit a brilliant slice down the line and surged back to win that game.
After Azarenka held serve the set was decided in a tie-breaker where Barty would dominate after coming back from a mini-break on the first point.
Azarenka the former world no. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion was fighting hard to stay in touch with Barty however the Australian showed her class as she secured the second rubber with a 7-6(2), 6-3 victory after Sabalenka’s 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 win in the opening rubber.
Sunday will see Barty take on Sabalenka in the opening match. Sabalenka holds a 2-1 lead in the head-to-head matchup. Barty taking the first match when they met at the 2018 Australian Open. Sabalenka then won in Wuhan and Zhuhai.
Australian captain Alicia Molik still has not decided on the player to face Azarenka in the match that will follow. She has a few options available to her.
It could all come down to the doubles rubber to decide who will advance to the final against the winner of Romania and France.