Teenager Aryna Sabalenka delivered another dramatic victory in the clinching rubber to send Belarus through to the 2017 BNP Paribas Fed Cup Final on Sunday - the first-ever for her country.
The 18-year-old Sabalenka, who also clinched the team's victory over the Netherlands in February's quarterfinals, defeated Viktorija Golubic, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to give Belarus an unassailable 3-1 lead, after Aliaksandra Sasnovich stunned the highest-ranked player in the tie, Timea Bacsinszky, 6-2, 7-6(2).
While the Belarusians will be in uncharted territory come November, their opponents will not be. The United States will look to win its 18th Fed Cup crown, and first since 2000, as the Americans defeated three-time defending champions, the Czech Republic, 3-2 in Saddlebrook, Florida.
Belarus def. Switzerland, 3-2 - Minsk, Belarus
Sasnovich crunched 22 winners en route to the victory, as Bacsinszky hit a mirror 22 unforced errors but only struck 11 winners. The Belarusian never trailed in the match, as she cruised to the opener after breaking in the first game, and though she was broken twice as she served for the match, a 5-0 lead in the tiebreak was enough to quell another comeback effort from the Swiss.
"[She is] definitely not playing to her ranking," Bacsinszky said about the World No.96 Sasnovich. "She was better than me today, she played amazing and was there at the right moments."
The big-hitting Sabalenka was the aggressor for the entirety of the two-hour, eight minute match, striking 33 winners to Golubic's 10. A break in Golubic's first service game gave the teenager the edge, as she never faced a break point in the first set to claim it, 6-3.
The Swiss, ranked over 70 places above her opponent, responded to break three times in the second set en route to sending the match to a decider, but dropped her serve at love in what turned out to be the deciding ninth game of the third set.
United States def. Czech Republic, 3-2 - Saddlebrook, Florida
CoCo Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Katerina Siniakova and Kristyna Pliskova, 6-2, 6-3 in the deciding doubles rubber in Saddlebrook. Earlier, teenager Marketa Vondrousova had some magic of her own, as she defeated Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-5 to send the tie to a live fifth rubber, after Vandeweghe trumped Siniakova in the day's first singles.
Vandeweghe played a part in all three of the United States' wins in the tie, and was at her best to open Sunday's play against Siniakova. The American won the last nine games of the match to blitz the USA to a 2-1 lead, hitting 31 winners and winning 86 percent of points behind her first serve in the match.
Czech captain Petr Pala showed faith in the 17-year-old Vondrousova, who lost her Fed Cup debut against Vandeweghe on Saturday, and that paid dividends as she rallied from a break down to win the last four games of the second set.
However, the Americans dominated in the deciding doubles rubber, as World No.1 Mattek-Sands and Vandeweghe broke serve three times en route to taking the opener. One early break was enough to seal the tie for the Americans in the second set, though the Czech team saved a trio of match points to force Vandeweghe to serve the match out in the ninth game.
Since winning the 2000 Fed Cup, the USA was runners-up to Italy in both the 2009 and 2010 finals, and to France in 2003.