Fed Cup World Group semi-final clash between Australia and Belarus in Brisbane had promised to be a cracking one even before it started and girls have shown that on the court on Saturday, with the result leveled at 1-1 after the opening singles ties.
Aryna Sabalenka delivered the opening point for the away team, toppling the veteran Samantha Stosur 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 in two hours and 47 minutes for the third straight Fed Cup win in 2019. It was a rollercoaster encounter with 22 double faults and no less than 40 break points, with Sabalenka securing one extra break (nine to eight) to seal the deal and cross the finish line first.
They traded four straight games in the opening stage of the match, still not finding the range on the initial shot, with Stosur earning another one at 4-4 to serve for the opener. Out of sudden, Sabalenka recovered her strokes, breaking back in game ten to prolong the set, saving three break points in game 11 and sealing the opener on the fifth set point at 6-5.
The first set lasted for more than an hour and the second was right there, with nine breaks of serve in 12 games! Stosur grabbed five of those, stealing Sabalenka's serve in succession before she finally held at 6-5 to send the match into a decider, previously wasting a set point on own serve at 5-4.
The final set saw better serving from both and Aryna made a difference with a break in game four, saving three break points in the opening game and serving well in the rest of the set to wrap up the triumph with a hold at 15 at 5-3 and put Belarus in front.
In the battle between good friends and doubles partners, the biggest hope of the home fans Ashleigh Barty took down Victoria Azarenka 7-6, 6-3 in an hour and 41 minutes to bring the much-needed point for Australia ahead of Sunday's thriller.
Both players created 11 chances on the return and it was Barty who brought better tennis when it mattered the most, scoring five breaks and dropping serve three times to seal the deal in straight sets after a tight opener.
Just like in the first rubber, there were four consecutive breaks at 1-1, with a massive opportunity for Vika to move ahead again at 5-5 when she created three chances on the return. Ashleigh saved them to boost confidence, taking the tie break 7-2 and moving closer to the finish line.
Carried by the partisan crowd at Pat Rafter Arena, Barty delivered three breaks in set number two to keep Australia in contention before the deciding day.