The most striking aspect of Great Britain’s promotion-sealing 3-1 win over Kazakhstan in the Fed Cup was not the ability of Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter.
Instead, it was their strength of character which shone through as each player dealt with difficult situations to earn the points their team needed to earn a place in the World Group for the first time since 1993.
Konta digs deep to recover during both her winsEmbed from Getty Images
The tone was set for a challenging weekend when Konta lost the opening set against Zarina Diyas. However, despite looking out of form, she battled back to win the next two sets and give Britain the lead.
It was even more of a concern for British fans when their number one also lost the first set against Kazakhstan’s highest-ranked player – World No.38 Yulia Putintseva.
But once again Konta fought back to take the second set 6-2 and level the match. She then fell 4-1 behind in the deciding set, only to produce an extraordinary comeback and win six of the next seven games to clinch it 7-5.
All of these fightbacks required guts, courage and that rare kind of calmness that enables a player not to panic in the most pressurised situations imaginable.
It is to her immense credit that British fans are used to seeing these characteristics on show from Konta. The World No.46 has now won 11 consecutive singles rubbers in the Fed Cup, as well as 15 of her last 17 matches in the competition. She has also come out on top on the last seven occasions when her match has gone to a deciding set.
This record highlights the British number one’s importance to the team, and the difference she has made since her debut in 2013 cannot be underestimated.
Boulter suffers painful loss to PutintsevaEmbed from Getty Images
The British number two performed superbly in Bath. She won all four of her matches – two of them in straight sets – to set the team on their way to four consecutive wins that booked their place in the World Group II Play-Off.
And when she played some sparkling tennis to win the first set against Putintseva 6-3 on Saturday, it looked like she would continue where she left off in February.
Then, in the third game of the second set, she stretched awkwardly for a ball and clearly hurt herself. Consequently, the Kazakhstani number one claimed the second set 6-2. At that point, the match seemed as good as over.
However, Boulter showed everyone what a courageous sportswoman she is by gritting her teeth amid the discomfort and fighting for every point in the third set.
Incredibly, she stormed into a 4-0 lead and looked on course for a remarkable victory. But Putintseva tore up that script. She won four of the next five games to make it 5-4, saved a match point at 6-5 to force a tie-break and then saved two more match points en route to winning the tie-break 8-6.
Boulter was distraught, and the sight of her crying on the team bench while Captain Anne Keothavong and teammate Katie Swan consoled her became the defining image of day one.
Boulter battles back injury to see off DiyasEmbed from Getty Images
Despite that disappointment, the British number two’s assignment on day two was an easier one on paper as she was facing a lower-ranked player in Diyas.
But the Kazakstani had demonstrated her ability against Konta, and she showed what she could do once again as she played a near-perfect tie-break to secure a close first set against Boulter.
After Diyas broke early in the second set, the size of the task facing the Brit grew even more. And, when you consider that Boulter had tape on her lower back and was using a hot water bottle to manage her injury at most of the changeovers, a comeback seemed unlikely.
No-one who witnessed what followed will doubt the British number two’s ability to overcome adversity in the future. Boulter got up after the changeover and broke back immediately to make it 2-2.
She then settled into a rhythm by winning her next three service games, before breaking Diyas to take the set 6-4 and level the match.
After that show of determination and heart, Boulter turned on the style in the decider. She served well and hit an array of spectacular winners to overwhelm her opponent and win it 6-1.
When Diyas made the final error of the match, the British team gleefully jumped onto court and ran towards Boulter. The euphoric celebrations continued for several minutes, and the team had earned every single moment of them.