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Germany vs Belarus Fed Cup live streaming, preview and tips: Sabalenka powers Belarus into semi-finals

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 10 Feb 2019
  • Third-seeded Belarus travel to Germany for Fed Cup World Group first-round tie on 9-10 February
  • Sabalenka beat Laura Siegemund in the first of Sunday's reverse singles to give Belarus an unassailable 3-0 lead
  • Belarus to play Australia or USA in the semi-finals
Aryna Sabalenka. (Photo by MAXIM MALINOVSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Aryna Sabalenka powered past Laura Siegemund in the first of Sunday's reverse singles to put Belarus into the Fed Cup semis for the second time in three years.



RESULTS

Day One - GER 0-2 BLR
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) d. Tatjana Maria (GER), 7-6(3), 6-2
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) d. Andrea Petkovic (GER), 6-2, 6-1

Day Two - GER 0-4 BLR
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) d. Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-1 6-1
Victoria Azarenka (BLR)/ Lidziya Morazava (BLR) d. Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER)/ Mona Barthel (GER) 6-1 0-6 11-9.

World No. 9, Aryna Sabalenka powered Belarus into the Fed Cup semi-finals with a dominant 6-1 6-1 victory over Germany’s Laura Siegemund in first of Sunday’s reverse singles.

Striking 18 winners to her opponent’s five, Sabalenka improved her impressive Fed Cup singles’ record to 7-4, giving Belarus an unassailable 3-0 lead against the Germans. Sabalenka served at only 55%, but she won over 60% of points on both her first and second serves, saving all six break points she faced.

Siegemund had been drafted into Sunday’s rubber ahead of Tatjana Maria, who was originally scheduled to play, but the 30-year-old, contesting her first Fed Cup singles match, couldn’t find any answers to Sabalenka’s power, and was dispatched in an hour and 19 minutes.



“I’m so happy and our team are so happy and it’s an unbelievable result to win 3-0 and to win two matches, it’s incredible", Sabalenka said afterwards.

With a semi-final ticket in the bag, Belarus gave a popular run-out to former world No. 1, Victoria Azarenka, who stepped out in the dead doubles rubber to make her first appearance in the competition since 2016. Azarenka up with Lidziya Morazava to win the doubles’ rubber, extending her Fed Cup winning streak to 13 matches.

The Belarusians have now reached the Fed Cup semi-finals for the second time in three years, and will attempt to reach the final when they visit USA or Australia in the last four.


DAY TWO PREVIEWS

Tatjana Maria (GER) vs Aryna Sabalenka (BLR), 10am GMT
After the first day's action in Braunschweig, home side Germany find themselves on the brink of defeat while Belarus are just one point from victory. 

While nominations can change up until shortly before the start of play, after the way Aryna Sabalenka performed on Saturday it's doubtful that Belarusian captain Tatiana Poutchek will look to anyone except her star player for the first of Sunday's reverse singles. World no. 9 Sabalenka, the highest-ranked player in the tie, hasn't been used to being the standard-bearer for her side, but she looked totally assured against Andrea Petkovic on Saturday, allowing the German veteran just three games as she found some incredible defense and movement around the court to back up her overwhelming power. A chastened but always gracious Petkovic credited her opponent with playing the 'perfect match', saying: 

'She rolled over me and was just better in each and every department of the game today, although my strengths I couldn’t even play out, because it never really came to rallies and physicality and all the things I bring to the table.'

So it seems almost guaranteed that Belarus will stick with Sabalenka and trust the 20-year-old to send them into the semifinals.

For the Germans it's a more tricky equation. Tatjana Maria did not play badly in her 6-7(3), 2-6 defeat to Aliaksandra Sasnovich - far from it: She made Sasnovich work for absolutely everything in a gruelling first set, and it wasn't really failings on her part that saw Sasnovich pull away in the second. The problem is that it's quite difficult to see how Maria would beat Sabalenka if the Belarusian plays anything like she did on Saturday, and indeed Maria is 0-3 against Sabalenka, although she has twice forced the younger woman to a third set (most recently at the beginning of January in Shenzhen).

Might German captain Jens Gerlach, needing to win this one to keep the tie alive, gamble everything on sending in Mona Barthel, who has never faced Sabalenka before, in an attempt to throw the world no. 9?

Andrea Petkovic (GER) vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR), to follow
With Belarus favoured to win the first reverse singles, this might be a dead rubber, but if it isn't, it will be up to Aliaksandra Sasnovich to seal the deal or to Andrea Petkovic to try to keep the tie, and hopes of an improbable German comeback, alive.

Petkovic did not play badly against Sabalenka, she simply wasn't allowed to have much of a say in the match, claiming just three games (which she had to work pretty hard for). Captain Jens Gerlach would probably stick with the veteran, although both Mona Barthel and Laura Siegemund are available and might give a different look to Sasnovich, because unlike Sabalenka, Sasnovich won't be able to completely overpower Petkovic and keep her from getting into long, physical rallies.

Sasnovich's win over Maria saw her Fed Cup singles record improve to 15-10 and she is unlikely to be substituted for the second reverse singles, with former world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka - very out of form - the only other option. The Belarusian loves a fast indoors hard court, and although she was very error-strewn at times in the first set against Maria, her flat-hitting, aggressive, staccato game started to come together at the end of the first set and she breezed through the second in impressive style. Petkovic can put her under more pressure with power - she won their only previous meeting 6-1, 6-1 - and if the tie is still alive when it comes to this rubber, things could start to get very interesting. 

Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Laura Siegemund (GER) vs Victoria Azarenka/Lidziya Marozava (BLR), to follow
In the unlikely event that the tie is still live when it comes to the fifth rubber, the decisive doubles, one feels that the Germans would for the first time have the advantage. 

Anna-Lena Groenefeld is a good doubles player and, alongside Maria, beat the Belarusian pairing of Sabalenka and Lidziya Marozava in last year's first-round clash. Jens Gerlach has a wealth of talent he can put alongside Groenefeld, while Tatiana Poutchek would have to decide whether to go with Victoria Azarenka - a very good doubles player, but badly struggling for form and confidence at the moment - or trust in the power of Sabalenka. The likelihood, however, is that Belarus will have been able to seal victory and a place in the semifinal before the doubles rubber is reached.

DAY ONE PREVIEWS

Tatjana Maria (GER) vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR), 12pm GMT
Leading the German side in the absence of Angelique Kerber and Julia Goerges, can veteran Tatjana Maria get the home side off to a winning start against Belarus's Aliaksandra Sasnovich?

Tatjana Maria leads the home side (MAXIM MALINOVSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
World no. 67 Maria, one of the WTA's working mothers, played a significant role in the last meeting between these two sides - losing to Aryna Sabalenka in three sets, she beat Vera Lapko in three, and then teamed up with Anna-Lena Groenefeld for a decisive doubles victory in last year's first-round tie.

Germany will be hoping that the experienced Maria, who has an overall 5-4 win-loss in Fed Cup singles, can repeat the feat this time around. A top-50 player in 2017 after a particularly strong season on the ITF Tour, Maria won the first WTA Tour title of her career last summer on grass in Mallorca. So far in 2019, she had a disappointing Australian swing - an ominous loss to Sabalenka in Shenzhen, followed by a second-round defeat in qualifying for Sydney and then a first-round defeat as a lucky loser to another qualifier, and an 0-6, 2-6 defeat to Serena Williams in the first round in Melbourne - but dropping down to ITF level saw Maria get three wins under her belt before losing in the semifinals of Newport Beach, so she has that to draw on, although she then suffered her third defeat of 2019 to a player ranked outside the top 100 in Midland.

Aliaksandra Sasnovich played a crucial role in Belarus's run to the Fed Cup final in 2017 and has an overall win-loss record of 15-10, with some impressive wins - including ones over Sloane Stephens and Kiki Bertens - interspersed with some puzzling losses. That's Sasnovich's career as a whole: The Belarusian is a very talented player but struggles with consistency. Currently ranked world no. 33, Sasnovich came close to defending her 2018 run to the Sydney final as a qualifier in January when she qualified for the event again and beat Monica Puig and Daria Kasatkina on the way to the semifinals, and she also beat defending champion and top-10 player Elina Svitolina in Brisbane before reaching the third round of the Australian Open. She is on fine form, in other words, and absolutely loves a fast indoor hard court. It's the first meeting between Maria and Sasnovich, but one feels that the latter has every chance of getting Belarus off to a winning start in Braunschweig.

Andrea Petkovic (GER) vs Aryna Sabalenka (BLR), to follow
German veteran Andrea Petkovic plays her first Fed Cup singles since the 2017 quarterfinal when she went 0-2 to Alison Riske and Coco Vandeweghe of the USA, and finds herself up against top-10 player Aryna Sabalenka.

Former top-10 player Andrea Petkovic will take on world no. 9 Sabalenka (THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP/Getty Images)
A former top-10 player herself in 2011 and a former French Open semifinalist, Petkovic's career has been marked by struggling with injuries and she comes into this tie ranked world no. 68. A semifinalist in Linz, Guangzhou and Washington, D.C. in 2018, Petkovic owns a 13-30 record against top-10 players and won two of the four matches she played against top-10 opposition in 2018, beating Julia Goerges and Sloane Stephens. Her season so far has seen her fall to younger, lower-ranked players in qualifying for Brisbane and St Petersburg, and to Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round of the Australian Open, but she's a great team player who loves a big stage and occasion and should be expected to play above her recent level in this clash.

The pressure is on for world no. 9 Sabalenka, the highest-ranked player in the tie by some margin. The Belarusian won both her singles matches when these two sides faced off in 2018, but her overall win-loss record in Fed Cup singles is 6-4 - not brilliant.

Sabalenka is, of course, still young and at 20 is really just starting to show us what she can do. Her breakthrough second half of 2018, which saw her win New Haven and Wuhan and narrowly miss out on reaching the WTA Finals Singapore, has created huge expectations for 2019 and so far, she's done a good job of living up to them, capturing the Shenzhen Open title in the first week of the year and bouncing back from an unexpected third-round defeat at the Australian Open to Amanda Anisimova with a semifinal run in St Petersburg (clearly playing some good tennis on indoor hard courts). Petkovic and Sabalenka have never played, but Sabalenka has a bit of an advantage when it comes to power and athleticism; what she also has is a volatile temperament which she will need to try to stay cool in the face of a hostile crowd and what is sure to be a spirited challenge from hard-hitting Petkovic. This should be a win for Sabalenka, but there's a gulf in experience which might just see Petkovic sneaking a win for the home side or at the least making life very difficult for Sabalenka.

TIE INFORMATION

Location: Braunschweig, Germany

Venue: Volkswagen Halle Braunschweig

Surface: Indoor hard courts

Germany: Andrea Petkovic, Tatiana Maria, Mona Barthel, Laura Siegemund, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Jens Gerlach (captain)

Belarus: Aryna Sabalenka, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Victoria Azarenka, Vera Lapko, Lidziya Marozava, Tatiana Poutchek (captain)

TIE PREVIEW

Belarus made an unexpected run to the Fed Cup final in 2017, a run which also served as a bit of a coming-out party for its two singles stars, Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Aryna Sabalenka, who would both go on to achieve some eye-catching results on the WTA Tour in 2018. 

The visitors are looking to avenge last year's first-round defeat to Germany, and the hosts will take courage from the fact that the German side playing that tie was also lacking its strongest players and led by Tatjana Maria: With Sabalenka getting two singles wins, Maria got one over Vera Lapko and Antonia Lottner accounted for another over Sasnovich, before Maria and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, an accomplished doubles player and Fed Cup stalwart, combined for a decisive singles win.

Belarus do, however, now have the option of using two-time Grand Slam champion and former world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka, either in the reverse singles on Sunday or the doubles. Azarenka has been on poor form recently as her personal struggles continue but she remains a cut above most of the other players on the tie. Germany, however, also have an ace in the hole in the form of Laura Siegemund, the drop-shot happy Stuttgart champion, and the stage is set for an intriguing tie in Braunschweig.


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Germany vs Belarus Fed Cup live streaming, preview and tips: Sabalenka powers Belarus into semi-finals

Germany vs Belarus live streaming, preview and predictions for the Fed Cup World Group first-round tie being played in Braunschweig on 9-10 February: Aryna Sabalenka powered past Laura Siegemund in the first of Sunday's reverse singles to put Belarus into the Fed Cup semis for the second time in three years.

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