BRISBANE, Australia - Belarus' Aliaksandra Sasnovich made history at the Brisbane International on Friday, becoming the first qualifier to advance to the championship match behind a 7-6(3), 6-4 victory over No.7 seed Anastasija Sevastova.
Samantha Crawford reached the semifinals as a qualifier in 2016, while Lesia Tsurenko reached the last four as a lucky loser in 2013, but no player managed to win the seven matches necessary to pull off the feat before Sasnovich's effort this year.
"I already said that in the beginning of the tournament I couldn't even imagine that I will be in the final," Sasnovich said after the match. "It's good for me, good for our country, good for all of the people who support me. Without them, it was not possible.
"It's nice to be first [qualifier in the final]. It's motivated me."
Both players were in uncharted territory in Friday's semifinal, with the 23-year-old Sasnovich playing in her first Premier semifinal and just her third in a WTA event, while the World No.16 was looking to advance to both her biggest career final and first on hard courts.
The Belarusian came from a set down in her last match in qualifying, and in each of her first three matches in the main draw, against No.6 seed Kristina Mladenovic, Anett Kontaveit and 2017 runner-up Alizé Cornet.
This time, though, she proved to be the one off to a stronger start as she broke on the first opportunity for either player in the fifth game of the opener.
Nonetheless, the Latvian survived an early barrage from the Belarusian, who hit six winners in the first six games, to break back immediately and hold at love to draw level.
The set went with serve all the way through to a tiebreak - after Sevastova dug out of a 0-30 hole on serve to send the set there - but it was Sasnovich who upped the aggression in the cluch, rifling a pair of backhand winners to begin which gave her a tiebreak lead she would never relinquish.
The second set proved similarly tight, as there was little to separate the two players over the course of the 95-minute encounter.
Sasnovich saved a pair of break point chances en route to holding serve for 3-3, as she battled from behind on serve for much of the set set.
The qualifier registered the decisive break of the Latvian's serve in the ninth game of the set, edging the first and only game which went to deuce on Sevastova's delivery to help key her second victory over a seeded player this week.
Both players proved largely successful behind their serves in the semifinal encounter, with breaks for both players being at a premium.
Though Sevastova served seven aces, it was Sasnovich's ability to convert in the pressure moments which helped steer her to her biggest career final. The Belarusian No.1 converted both break points she created in the match while saving two of the three she faced.
Sasnovich added: "I was very close to Anastasija. We play same level, but I was a little bit like her today. 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."
The appearance in Saturday's final marks Sasnovich's second overall on the WTA, as the Belarusian's first final came at the Korea Open in Seoul in 2015, where she finished runner-up to Irina-Camelia Begu. On the ITF Circucit, she is 11-0 in career singles finals.
"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," she said. "The title is forever. The finalist maybe some people forgot him, but the winner, no one.
"The final, it's not enough for me. We'll see tomorrow, but I'm happy with my result. From qualies to the final."
In terms of her potential Top 10 foes in the championship match, Sasnovich defeated Karolina Pliskova in their lone career meeting in Tokyo in 2016, as the Czech was coming off an appearance in the US Open final, and has never played Elina Svitolina.
"Pliskova has a good serve, good baseline. Svitolina, as well, is a really good player," the Belarusian assessed. "They are Top 10 players. 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."