The Malta Independent 21 February 2019, Thursday

Tennis, Fed Cup: Romania upsets Czechs, Australia beats US

Associated Press Monday, 11 February 2019, 01:43 Last update: about 9 days ago

Romania upset defending champion Czech Republic 3-2 to advance to the semifinals of the Fed Cup on Sunday, along with France, Belarus and Australia.

Romania reached the semifinals for the first time after its first victory against the Czechs, who won six titles in the last eight years.

Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu teamed up to clinch the best-of-five contest with a 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4 win over Czech pair Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova in the doubles.

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Romania took a 2-1 lead on an indoor hard-court in Ostrava after Simona Halep beat 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, made it 2-2 with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Mihaela Burzanescu, leaving the result hinging on the doubles.

It was a similar finish in Australia's 3-2 win over the U.S. in North Carolina, with Ash Barty and Priscilla Hon beating Danielle Collins and Nicole Melichar 6-4, 7-5 in the deciding doubles.

Earlier, Barty beat Madison Keys 6-4, 6-1 to give Australia a 2-1 lead. Collins, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open last month, made it 2-2 after a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Daria Gavrilova.

The Australians will next play Belarus, which lost the 2017 final to the U.S., in April. Belarus dominated at Braunschweig, with Aryna Sabalenka cruising past Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 to give her country an insurmountable 3-0 lead over host Germany on an indoor hard court.

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

In the final doubles match, 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.

In Liege, Caroline Garcia clinched an insurmountable 3-0 lead for France over host 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.

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