Azarenka dances into the Fed Cup weekend

Ross Houston
April 23, 2019

Australia's women tennis players are eyeing their first Fed Cup title in almost five decades after Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur won their doubles match to help clinch a 3-2 semifinal win in Brisbane on Sunday.

Australia, who have not won the title since 1974, will host the final against France, who came from behind to beat Romania 3-2.

Nonetheless, they sealed that game to win the last three in the first, and despite losing the last three of the second to be taken to a decider, and sealed the win with two more breaks in the final set.

Barty had some trouble in the first set against the two-time Australian Open champion and saved three break points at 5-5 to go on to win 7-6 (2) 6-3 and level the tie at 1-1.

Barty called making the final "unbelievable" while Stosur said it was "super exciting".

"I knew the first set would be key", Barty said of her match against her current doubles partner.

Australia are attempting to reach their first Fed Cup final since 1993. On her last appearance Down Under in January she won the women's doubles title at the Australian Open.

World number nine Barty was ideal all weekend, winning both her singles matches against Sabalenka and Azarenka in straight sets before lining up in the doubles, and she needed to be.

In the day's opening match, Barty beat Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2 to give Australia a 2-1 lead.

Azarenka was originally not listed to play the doubles, but after she dismantled Stosur 6-1 6-1 in 59 minutes to send the tie to the decider, she quickly had her rackets restrung and joined the 20-year-old Sabalenka in the doubles, where they went down to defeat.

"Don't get me started", she nervously laughed as captain Alicia Molik rubbed her back.

It left the tie finely poised at 2-2 with a doubles match to determine who meets France or Romania in the final.

Barty, who was forced to produce big serves to neutralize breakpoint opportunities in both the second and fourth games of the second set, broke Sabalenka and ended the Belarusian's resistance when she served her eighth double fault.

"It's really special playing at home, this is what Fed Cup is all about", she said, adding that the plan now was to "rest, recover and get my head around playing Aryna". Sabalenka's serving wobbles continued with Barty exploiting the weakness to take the set.

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