MINSK (Reuters) - Coco Vandeweghe survived a late attack of nerves in an otherwise composed performance to beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4 6-4 and give the United States a 1-0 lead in the Fed Cup final against Belarus on Saturday.
U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens faces 78th-ranked Aryna Sabalenka in the day's second singles at the Chizhovka Arena, where a win for the American would put her team on the brink of a record-extending 18th Fed Cup title - their first in 17 years.
Vandeweghe, who broke into the world's top 10 this week, started the stronger in her first meeting with the 87th-ranked Sasnovich, breaking in the first game of the opening set and holding her serve with ease.
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The American broke again in the first game of the second set, and although Sasnovich leveled things up immediately, Vandeweghe stepped up a gear in the next game, breaking once more before holding to love to take control of the match.
Vandeweghe's composure deserted her temporarily on serve with the score at 4-3 when she surrendered a surprise break after leading 40-0, but she broke back immediately to restore her advantage before serving out for victory in an hour.
Belarus are without former world number one Victoria Azarenka, who announced this week that she would be unable to play in the final due to an ongoing custody battle with her baby son's father.
(Writing by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)