Romania upset Czech Republic to reach Fed Cup semis

Published by AP

Simona Halep celebrates with the Romanian Fed Cup team after they defeated the Czech Republic; Getty Images
Romania are through to face France in their first Fed Cup semifinal, while Belarus await the winners of the USA v Australia.

Romania upset defending champions the Czech Republic to advance to the semifinals of the Fed Cup for the first time.

Led by world No.3 Simona Halep, Romania made the final four for the first time with their first victory over the Czechs, who have won six titles in the past eight years, and they will now meet the French in April’s semis.

Belarus, who beat Germany 4-0 in Braunschweig, will travel to Australia, who won a gripping tie against the USA 3-2 in North Carolina.

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Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu teamed up in Ostrava to clinch the best-of-five series against their hosts with a 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4 over Czech pair Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova, who won the mixed doubles at the Australian Open with Rajeev Ram.

Romania took a 2-1 lead on the indoor hard-court after Simona Halep defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-4 5-7 6-4 in a reverse singles featuring two former top-ranked players.

Halep improved her record against Pliskova to 7-2 to put Romania one win from advancing.

Siniakova, the star of last year’s final victory against the United States, levelled the tie at 2-2 after defeating Mihaela Burzanescu 6-4 6-2.

“It was a tough match as always – maybe the fighting was the most important thing for me today,” Halep said after her win.

“I’m so happy to have won against such a tough opponent who’s in such good form, so I think it was a big day for me.

“It was my biggest and best win in the Fed Cup and to win both rubbers against the Czech Republic means a lot to me because they have such a big history in this competition. It helps me for the future as well as now.”

In Liege, Caroline Garcia clinched an insurmountable 3-0 lead for France over Belgium after easing past Elise Mertens 6-2 6-3 to set up a semifinal against Romania.

Garcia marked her return to the Fed Cup for the first time since the 2016 final with a couple of victories after overcoming Alison Van Uytvanck 7-6(2) 4-6 6-2 in the opening singles on Saturday.

In the doubles, Ysaline Bonaventure and Kirsten Flipkens won a consolation point for Belgium with a 6-3 3-6 10-6 victory over Fiona Ferro and Pauline Parmentier to reduce the final score to 3-1 with the second reverse singles not played.

Aryna Sabalenka cruised past Laura Siegemund 6-1 6-1 to give Belarus an insurmountable 3-0 lead over Germany at the Volkswagen Halle.

The ninth-ranked Sabalenka hit 18 winners compared to five to help Belarus avenge losing to Germany 3-2 last year in Minsk.

In doubles, Victoria Azarenka teamed up with Lidziya Marozava to beat Mona Barthel and Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-1 0-6 11-9 to win 4-0 overall.

Belarus, who lost the 2017 final to the United States, will face the US or Australia in the semifinals in April.

In Asheville, Australia led the US 2-1 when Ash Barty beating Madison Keys 6-4 6-1, before Danielle Collins evened things up with a 6-1 3-6 6-2 win over Daria Gavrilova.

It came down to the doubles, and Barty and Priscilla Hon prevailed 6-4 7-5 against Collins and Nicole Melichar.

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