MINSK, Belarus - It came down to the wire, but the United States survived a titanic tussle against a young Belarusian squad, closing out the Fed Cup championship tie 3-2, and claiming their first victory in the team event in 17 years.
The red, white, and blue hadn't raised a Fed Cup trophy since 2000, but much of Sunday's heavy lifting was down to the efforts of CoCo Vandeweghe, after the tie was even at 1-1 after Saturday's play.
Vandeweghe, the newest member of the WTA Top 10, was up to the task. She joined Russians Anastasia Myskina and Elena Dementieva as the only players to put up three points in a Fed Cup final since 1995.
"Today was a lot of work and a lot of dedication to the Fed Cup in each and every round," Vandeweghe said in a post-match on-court interview. "I dedicate my time and energy through my season to be able to perform the best I could for Team USA."
This was also a massive triumph for Kathy Rinaldi, as the former World No.7 in singles took her group of players to the Fed Cup championship in her first year as captain.
"It's unbelievable!" Rinaldi exclaimed after the tie. "What an amazing effort by all four players this week. It’s been incredible, the atmosphere is something special. It’s a day we’ll never forget."
In the first match of the day and third of the tie, Vandeweghe saved a set point and rallied from a 4-1 tiebreak deficit to defeat Aryna Sabalenka, 7-6(5), 6-1 and put the USA one point away from the win.
However, Aliaksandra Sasnovich responded with a mammoth comeback of her own, rallying from 5-2 down and three points from defeat in the final set to defeat Sloane Stephens, 4-6, 6-1, 8-6, and send the tie to a deciding doubles rubber.
But the Americans regrouped in the final match, as Vandeweghe and Shelby Rogers fought back from a 5-2 deficit and two set points in the second set to defeat the last-minute makeshift pairing of Sabalenka and Sasnovich, 6-3, 7-6(3).
The 19-year-old Sabalenka and 23-year-old Sasnovich combined to be a formidable pair, and the young Belarusians served for the second set three times: at 5-2, 5-4, and 6-5. But each time, the greater experience and doubles prowess of the American duo proved too strong.
Rinaldi was thrilled by Rogers and Vandeweghe's success in a stressful scenario. "They had incredible energy throughout the two sets," said the Team USA captain. "They stepped it up, they played more aggressive at the end, they really took it. And that was the plan, to go out there and take it."
The American doubles team credited each other with the decisive victory. "That’s exactly what Fed Cup’s about: you have your teammates supporting you all weekend, and when they’re called upon, they come through," said Vandeweghe. "[Shelby] definitely carried me through most of that match when it mattered."
Meanwhile, Rogers noted Vandeweghe's pristine Fed Cup record. "She’s such a leader for this team, she’s been here all year long for us, and to have this moment here is so special."
The United States improved to 18-11 all time in Fed Cup finals, ahead of 10-time champion Czech Republic, winners of the last three. Vandeweghe was the heroine of the season, becoming the first ever player to pick up eight points for a team during a championship run.