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U.S. ends 17-year Fed Cup drought

The Associated Press

CoCo Vandeweghe, right, and doubles partner Shelby Rogers react after winning the decisive match to give the United States a 3-2 victory over Belarus in the Fed Cup final on Sunday in Minsk.

The Associated PressMINSK (AP) — A 17-year championship drought came to an end Sunday for the United States when it beat Belarus 3-2 to take its 18th Fed Cup title.

CoCo Vandeweghe and Shelby Rogers defeated Aryna Sabalenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) in the deciding doubles of the 2017 final. It was the first Fed Cup title for the U.S. since 2000.

“It feels perfectly believable and unbelievable,” Vandeweghe said. “I’m ready for a vacation.”

The Belarus pair led 5-2 in the second set and served to level at one-set apiece in the eighth, 10th and 12th games. The Americans dominated the tiebreaker, winning five of the last six points.

Sasnovich had kept Belarus alive after beating U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 to leave the final level at 2-2 on the indoor hard-court Chizhovka Arena.

Vandeweghe earlier beat Sabalenka 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead.

Kathy Rinaldi, in her inaugural season in charge of the Americans, became the first female captain in the tournament to lead a Fed Cup team to victory since Billie Jean King for the United States in 2000.

“It’s been an incredible ride thanks to these ladies,” Rinaldi said. “We’re family, and we’ve had each other’s backs. This was a very tough match.”

The United States holds the most Fed Cup titles in the international team competition. This was its fourth Fed Cup final since last winning in 2000. It lost the 2003, 2009 and 2010 finals.

Belarus was making its first appearance in a Fed Cup final.

“We are really satisfied we gained this result,” Belarus captain Eduard Dubrou said. “Today’s match has showed we have a good team because last time we faced the team of USA, it was 5-love, and today we were really close to a good result for us.”

Vandeweghe proved the difference between the two teams. She has won all eight Fed Cup matches she’s played this season — six singles and two doubles. Vandeweghe is the first player to win eight matches since the current eight-team World Group format was introduced in 2005.

“I had a great time out there,” Vandeweghe said. “I really relished in that moment of having the crowd against me and firing myself up and believing in myself.”

The 25-year-old Vandeweghe is also the first player to win the maximum six Fed Cup singles in a year since Petra Kvitova for the Czech Republic in 2011.

Federer stuffs Sock in opener

LONDON (AP) — One break of serve, and a mini-break, was all Roger Federer needed to win his opening match at the season-ending ATP Finals on Sunday.

The 19-time Grand Slam champion broke Jack Sock at the start of his 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) victory at the O2 Arena. Both then held serve the rest of the way, with Federer losing only three points on his serve in the second set.

“Sure, I had a tactical plan with my team,” Federer said. “But very often in a first match like this, it gets thrown overboard because, at the end, you’re just happy to be serving well. Focus on that first, and then on the return game sort of try your best, try to keep the ball in play, and go from there.”

The 36-year-old Federer, who is ranked No. 2 in the world and won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this season, is the oldest player ever to qualify for the season-ending tournament, which started in 1970.

In the late match, Alexander Zverev beat Wimbledon runner-up Marin Cilic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

A light-hearted moment came when Sock hit a shot that should have set up an easy winner for Federer. Instead of taking a defensive stance, Sock turned his back to Federer as if to protect himself from a shot to body.

Federer, surprisingly, put his easy chance into the net.

“It was a big distraction, I’ll tell you that,” Federer joked about Sock’s backside, “because it was very big. That’s what I should have aimed for.”

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