U.S., Belarus level at 1-1 after opening day of Fed Cup final

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MINSK, Belarus — U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens lost in three sets to Aryna Sabalenka as host Belarus and the United States ended the opening day of the Fed Cup final evenly poised at 1-1.

Sabalenka beat Stephens 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 Saturday after CoCo Vandeweghe earlier defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4, 6-4 to give 17-time champion United States a 1-0 lead.

The Americans are looking to break a 17-year championship drought, while Belarus is playing in its first Fed Cup final.

Sabalenka’s carefree and often careless tennis resulted in 31 winners and 57 unforced errors. She won on a fourth match point when Stephens netted a forehand.

A wild third set saw six straight breaks of serve before Sabalenka held in the seventh game.

“(It’s) a good experience for me because I’ve never felt these emotions, playing at home and the score is 0-1,” Sabalenka said.

Stephens has yet to win any of the five matches she’s played since winning the U.S. Open.

“We’re playing Fed Cup so anything goes,” Stephens said. “I want to play like that. That was insane. Playing for her country, the crowd behind her, she played great.”

Vandeweghe also faced a boisterous crowd at the indoor hard court in Minsk as she played Sasnovich for the first time.

“I think that’s part of having the home court advantage and I would expect the same in the U.S.,” Vandeweghe said.

Vandeweghe broke in the opening games of both sets at Chizhovka Arena, and didn’t face a break point on her serve in the opener.

In the second set, Vandeweghe lost serve in the second and eighth games, but broke serve on three of four offerings to secure the match.

Vandeweghe holds a perfect record in Fed Cup action this year, winning five singles and one doubles match including her defeat of Sasnovich.

“I think there’s different moments that excite you in tennis,” Vandeweghe said. “For me, Fed Cup is probably one of the more exciting moments I could have in my career.

“I don’t want to use the word `ooze’ confidence, but I can’t think of a better word. I just take the energy that’s around me and I really use it to my advantage.”

The Americans won a record 17th Fed Cup title in 2000, with Billie Jean King as captain. Since then, they have played and lost in three finals – 2003, 2009 and 2010.

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.