Fed Cup: Australia beat Belarus to reach first final since 1993

Australia reached their first Fed Cup final for 26 years with a 3-2 win over Belarus in Brisbane.

Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur beat Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 3-6 6-2 in the deciding doubles tie to seal victory.

Barty also won both her singles matches, while US Open champion Stosur lost twice.

Australia will host France or Romania, who will resume on Sunday level at 1-1, in the final in November.

French Open champion Simona Halep outclassed Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-1 to put Romania ahead, before Caroline Garcia beat Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-3 6-3 to level.

Romania, who beat defending champions the Czech Republic in an epic quarter-final, have never reached the final.

Stosur said: “It’s super exciting. We all work so hard all year and we’re such a tight team. We’re going to be giving it our best shot here in November.”

Australia’s team of Rennae Stubbs, Elizabeth Smylie and Nicole Provis lost 3-0 to Spain in the 1993 final.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal admitted that it will be “hard to return to the practice court” after a shock semifinal defeat by Fabio Fognini ended his bid for a record-extending 12th Monte Carlo Masters title on Saturday.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion starts his Barcelona Open title defence on Wednesday, as he also fights to keep his world-number-two ranking before the French Open gets underway next month.

The 32-year-old said he played “one of my worst matches in 14 years on clay” in losing 6-4, 6-2 to Italian Fognini, having been forced to save three match points at 5-0 in the second set.

“It will be hard to return to the practice court,” a subdued Nadal said after his fourth loss to Fognini, three of which have come on his beloved clay.

“I lost an opportunity in a very important event for me. I’m sad for that.”

Nadal has struggled with knee injuries this season, and was playing his first event since withdrawing before an Indian Wells semifinal against Roger Federer last month.

“There was little chance for me to start the clay-court season in a perfect way,” he insisted.

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