PA Sport

USA favourites to end 17-year wait for Fed Cup glory

USA favourites to end 17-year wait for Fed Cup glory
By PA Sport

10/11/2017 at 16:05Updated 10/11/2017 at 16:10

The USA go into this weekend's Fed Cup final against Belarus as hot favourites to end a 17-year wait for an 18th title.

The most successful team in the event's history are back in the final for the first time since 2010 and were relegated to the second tier two years ago.

But their strength in depth has carried them to victories over Germany and the Czech Republic despite the absence of Serena and Venus Williams.

Coco Vandeweghe, the newest member of the world's top 10, has been the key player, winning all five of the matches she has played this year.

In the opening clash of the final in Minsk she comes up against another unbeaten player, Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Belarus have been the surprise package of the season. They are looking for a 10th straight win after successive promotions and have reached the final despite the absence of their star player.

Victoria Azarenka had hoped to play in the final after returning to the sport this summer following the birth of her son last December.

But Azarenka is locked in a custody battle with her former partner and is unable to travel without leaving baby Leo behind in the United States.

Instead, Belarus must rely on world number 87 Sasnovich and 19-year-old Aryna Sabalenka, the country's highest ranked player at 78.

Sabalenka will contest the second rubber against US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who has not won a match since her shock triumph in New York in September.

The reverse singles matches on Sunday pits Vandeweghe against Sabalenka and Stephens against Sasnovich.

If the contest goes to a deciding rubber, a US doubles team of Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske is scheduled to take on Vera Lapko and Lidziya Marozava, although nominations could change.

US team captain Kathy Rinaldi said at a press conference: "O bviously the (Belarus) team has done extremely well this year. They've earned their way into the final.

"They have some young, talented players. They have the home crowd with them. That's something that we look forward to.

"We played two at home. It's a challenge. This is what we've come here for. This is the opportunity. We're here to win."