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Afp

Azarenka crushes Stosur to send Fed Cup semi to deciding doubles

By AFP
media

Victoria Azarenka crushed Samantha Stosur to send the Fed Cup semi-final between Australia and Belarus into a deciding fifth rubber in Brisbane on Sunday.

The two-time Australian Open champion was in a different league to the former US Open winner, who meekly succumbed 6-1, 6-1 in just 59 minutes.

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

Earlier, ice-cool world number nine Ashleigh Barty, watched on Pat Rafter Arena by Evonne Goolagong, who led Australia to their last Fed Cup title in 1974, produced a commanding performance to beat Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2.

Despite her demoralising loss, Stosur will team up with Barty to face Azarenka and Sabalenka in the crucial decider.

"It was about either we stay and fight for another match or go home," said Azarenka. "So I was very focused. Pressure was there but that's good. That's the situations I want to be in."

Australia are targeting their first final since 1993, while Belarus are bidding to reach it for the second time in three attempts, after being beaten by the United States in 2017.

Stosur has often struggled on home soil, although success hasn't been completely elusive. On her last appearance Down Under in January she won the women's doubles title at the Australian Open.

Nerves were fluttering as her match got under way with both players losing their opening service game. But Azarenka quickly settled while Stosur was broken twice more as the Belurussian raced to 4-1 lead.

Stosur was out of touch and fired down seven double faults as Azarenka won the set in just 29 minutes and the second followed a similar pattern.

In Sunday's opener, Barty maintained the red hot form that saw her burst into the top 10 by winning the Miami Open last month by outclassing world number 10 Sabalenka, whose serve let her down.

"A really clean match today. I stuck to my game plan well and was able to execute under pressure," said Barty, who is now on a 13-match Fed Cup winning streak. "Certainly nice to return (serve) so well."

She got the crucial break in game five of the first set, when Sabalenka fired down four double faults, including on break point.

Her serving wobbles continued with Barty exploiting the weakness and she broke again to pull 5-2 clear before serving out the set on an ace.

A tight second set also went with serve until the fifth game, and in a mirror image of the first Barty again broke when Sabalenka double faulted as the pressure mounted.

She broke again for 5-2, before serving out for the match, again with an ace.

 
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