Qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich pulled off a major surprise in the first semi-final of the Brisbane International, defeating seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova 7-6 (3), 6-4 to reach her second career final.
The Belarussian has battled through qualifying to reach the championship match, winning four straight three-set matches (including the final round of qualifying) before handling the Latvian in straight sets.
Sasnovich takes first set in tiebreak
The first game of the match saw Sevastova put immediate pressure on the Sasnovich, forcing her to deuce before the Belarussian got out of trouble with some good serving and forehands.
Again the qualifier was made to work hard for a hold in the fifth game, pushed to four deuces to take a 3-2 lead. That game would prove to be important as Sasnovich fired a crosscourt backhand winner to break and take a 4-2 lead.
Sevastova would immediately answer as from 30-all Sasnovich double-faulted and a backhand error put the set back on serve at 4-3. Both players would hold with relative ease to force a tiebreak.
In the tiebreak, Sasnovich got off to a quick start, earning the first mini-break with another backhand winner for a 2-0 lead. At 6-3, she held three set points and after Sevastova dumped a forehand into the net, the qualifier was a set to the good.
Late break sends Sasnovich to the final
Both players would hold comfortably as the second set began. The returner won just five points in the opening five games before Sevastova built a 15-40 lead in the sixth game, only to see Sasnovich fight off the first break point with an acute volley winner and the second courtesy of another error from the Latvian.
After holds were exchanged, the qualifier battled through a long, tough ninth game, fighting off a game point and breaking for a 5-4 lead when Sevastova's forehand again let her down, going wide. Serving for the match, Sasnovich held a 40-15 lead only to see Sevastova save the first match point, but a forehand winner on the second clinched the win for the 88th-ranked Belarussian.
Sasnovich reacts to her win
Following the match, Sasnovich spoke about her expectations at the beginning of the week: "I already said that in the beginning of the tournament I couldn't even imagine that I will be in the final".
She felt"It's good for me, good for our country, good for all of the people who support me. Without them, it was not possible".
She is the first qualifier to reach the Brisbane final and said "It's nice to be first [qualifier in the final]. It's motivated me."
She felt her and Sevastova were nearly even in the semifinal encounter:"I was very close to Anastasija. We play same level, but I was a little bit like her today."
Pointing out the keys to victory, the Belarussian said "I used all my chances today as well. I had a good serve, good play from the baseline. I'm happy with my win today."
Tomorrow, she will face Elina Svitolina for the title in what will be her second career WTA Tour final, the first coming in Seoul in 2015, finishing runner-up to Irina-Camelia Begu.
"Tomorrow I try to do my best, you know. I just will be fight 'til the end. I'm going to try to show my best tennis. The title is forever. The finalist maybe some people forgot him, but the winner, no one.
She is motivated to take the title and feels she has nothing to lose against the Ukranian: "The final, it's not enough for me. We'll see tomorrow, but I'm happy with my result. From qualies to the final.
"Svitolina is a really good player", the Belarussian assessed."She is a Top 10 player. What can I say? I'm just No.88, you know, so I have nothing to lose. It's my first final. No pressure on me."