Australia beat Belarus to make first Fed Cup final since 1993

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Brisbane:Australia powered into its first Fed Cup final since 1993 on Sunday with Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur clinching the deciding fifth rubber in Brisbane against Belarusian pair Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka.

Their battling 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 win set up a title match against either France or Romania in November.

The tie was sent into the crucial doubles match after Azarenka crushed Stosur 6-1, 6-1 in the reverse singles, following Barty sweeping past Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2.

Belarus, a losing finalist in 2017, was scheduled to pit Lidziya Marozava and Vera Lapko against the Australian duo, who were playing together for the first time. But with so much on the line team captain Tatiana Poutchek opted instead for the more accomplished pairing.

But they fell short to give seven-time champions Australia a crack at their first title since last winning in 1974.

“I could not have picked two more perfect athletes to compete. Ash and Sam are superstars,” said elated Australian captain Alicia Molik.

Barty called making the final “unbelievable” while Stosur said it was “super exciting”.

“We knew it was going to be a tough one and we just so happy with how we played,” added Stosur. “All the girls have worked so hard throughout the year and we really stick together.”

Watched on Pat Rafter Arena by Evonne Goolagong, who led Australia to that last Fed Cup win, the home team grabbed an early break against the Sabalenka serve in the opening game.

Belarus evened it up in game six and they exchanged breaks again before the Australians attacked the Azarenka serve to break and go 6-5 in front, with Stosur securing the set with an overhead smash.

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