In Fed Cup Fables, wtatennis.com will look back at the most memorable ties over the past five years of Fed Cup. In today's installment, we return to the 2017 World Group semifinals, where the tandem of Aryna Sabalenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich led Belarus to its first Fed Cup Final berth as an independent nation.
HOW THEY GOT THERE: While stalwarts Victoria Azarenka and Olga Govortsova helped Belarus become one of the elite eight nations in Fed Cup, Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Aryna Sabalenka's efforts allowed the country to reach new heights.
Belarus ascended through the Europe/Africa Group I in 2015 and into the World Group II for 2016 thanks to the play of their veterans - as Azarenka and Govortsova partnered for a doubles victory over Japan in the 2016 playoff round to earn a 3-2 overall win.
After Sasnovich and Govortsova helped their country defeat Canada - again in a live doubles match - to put Belarus in the World Group playoffs, Azarenka returned for the team's tie against Russia and scored two singles victories before Sasnovich sealed her team's spot in the 2017 World Group with a three-set comeback against Margarita Gasparyan.
But with two-time Australian Open champion and former World No.1 Azarenka on maternity leave following the birth of her son Leo in December of 2016, it was her two young compatriots helped take up the mantle in 2017.
Sasnovich and Sabalenka helped record history thanks to a 4-1 victory over the Netherlands in the first round of the 2017 edition of the tournament. With the win, Belarus earned its first-ever World Group victory, setting up a semifinal meeting against Switzerland on home soil.
In its opening round, Switzerland upset second-seeded France by winning all three rubbers on the tie's second day, as Belinda Bencic clinched the overall victory with a 6-3, 6-4 over Pauline Parmentier.
WHAT HAPPENED: To begin the semifinal tie, something had to give in the first rubber as Viktoria Golubic took on Sasnovich in Minsk.
The Swiss had made a scintillating singles debut for her country the previous year, winning both of her singles matches against Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova against a powerhouse Czech Republic team in the semifinal round.
However, it was Sasnovich who came into the match with the head-to-head momentum between the two, having beaten Golubic in her home country just nine days prior to the start of the semifinal tie at the Ladies' Open Biel Bienne.
With 42 places between the two players in the WTA rankings, it was then-World No.96 Sasnovich who gave the home team a 1-0 lead in a titanic tussle.
In two hours and 48 minutes, Sasnovich sealed a 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 win, coming from 3-1 down in the final set.
However, the tie was nonetheless leveled by the end of the day's play thanks to the efforts of Timea Bacsinszky, who beat an 18-year-old Sabalenka in the second rubber, 6-4, 7-5.
The former Top 10 player, ranked World No.22 entering the tie, battled back from deficits in each set to claim the victory.
She trailed 3-1 in each set, and also won the last four games of the match after Sabalenka failed to serve out the second set at 5-3.
On day two, however, Sabalenka had no such trouble sealing the deal. After Sasnovich delivered an emphatic opening statement, beating Bacsinszky, 6-2, 7-6(2) win to give Belarus a 2-1 lead, the teenager stepped up as the closer against Golubic
After each player won the first three games of each set that she claimed, it was another crucial trio of games that sealed Sabalenka's victory.
With the fourth rubber on a knife's edge, with Golubic having rallied from a break down to take a 4-3, lead, Sabalenka won the last three games of the match to claim a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory that sent the home country into the final.
WHAT IT MEANT: Belarus began competing in the Fed Cup as an independent nation in 1994, but ultimately only needed just the span of a year in highest levels of the competition to reach its first final.
Hosting the final against the United States, Sasnovich and Sabalenka again showed some brilliant tennis, with the latter's dramatic 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 victory over reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens sending the tie to a live fifth rubber.
The Americans ultimately came away with the Fed Cup, however, thanks to a win for Shelby Rogers and CoCo Vandeweghe in the deciding doubles match -- but Belarus had nonetheless laid the foundations to become a national powerhouse in the years to come.