MINSK, Belarus — With or without Victoria Azarenka, Belarus can still succeed on the tennis court.
The former top-ranked player is taking time out with her baby son, but Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Aryna Sabalenka stepped up Sunday to beat the Netherlands 4-1 in the 1st round of the Fed Cup World Group.
Sasnovich is ranked 104 places below No. 24 Kiki Bertens, but didn't let it show as she broke her Dutch opponent's serve seven times in a 6-3, 6-4 win.
Next up was 18-year-old Sabalenka, who beat veteran Michaella Krajicek 7-6 (5), 6-4 and put Belarus in the semifinals for the first time with an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
Belarus finished off a strong weekend in the remaining dead-rubber doubles match when Olga Govortsova and Vera Lapko won 6-4, 6-2 against the Dutch duo of Cindy Burger and Arantxa Rus.
Belarus hosts Switzerland in April's semifinals.