Vandeweghe wary of Sasnovich in Fed Cup opener
America's Coco Vandeweghe is heading into the Fed Cup final showdown against Belarus with a touch of trepidation, despite the absence of Victoria Azarenka.
The 55th edition of the tournament concludes this weekend in Minsk, with Friday's draw – which involved a Belarusian Olympic archer and swords for each of the players – pitching world number 10 Vandeweghe against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, ranked 77 places below her.
With 17 titles, USA are one of the competition's traditional heavyweights, although the last of those triumphs came back in 2000.
Belarus, in contrast, are seeking their first crown and Vandeweghe conceded she knows little about a team that also includes Aryna Sabalenka, Vera Lapko and Lidziya Marozava.
Guards on horseback, an Olympic archer and swords for the players. A memorable draw at the #FedCupFinal in Minsk - but the main thing is that #Sasnovich takes on @CoCoVandey ?? in the first rubber on Saturday.https://t.co/PP3qUKgz5o pic.twitter.com/AO1fx5pcbD— Fed Cup (@FedCup) November 10, 2017
"I don't know much about the Belarus team," said Vandeweghe, with headline act Azarenka out for the home side amid a custody dispute. "I feel like I'm coming in with wool over my eyes a little bit."
Team-mate Sloane Stephens, who along with Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske completes a far more familiar foursome than the hosts' quartet, has suffered a dip in form since winning her first grand slam at the US Open, failing to win a match since.
She returns to Fed Cup action for the first time since February and is hopeful the group's togetherness will prove pivotal.
"I think we're going to go out this weekend and just play as hard as we can," said the 24-year-old. "It doesn't matter who we're playing on the other side of the net, we'll just focus on us and our team and just sticking together and supporting each other and I think we'll do fine."
But opponent Sabalenka is confident home advantage will be the decisive factor as Belarus seek to add to their upset wins over Netherlands and Switzerland.
"Everyone is screaming your name, screaming [for] your team, screaming [for] your country," she said. "You feel like, 'come on, I have to win'. It's really helped us."
After Sasnovich and Vandeweghe kick things off on Saturday, Sabalenka takes on Stephens, while on Sunday those singles matches will be reversed before Lapko and Marozava team up for a doubles clash with Riske and Rogers.