Fed Cup | Semi-finalists and Play-Offs determined after thrilling weekend
Great Britain, who triumphed over the weekend in winning through to the World Group II play-offs, will soon know their fate in the next stage of the Fed Cup women’s team competition when the draw is made on Tuesday, 12 February, at the ITF headquarters in London in a ceremony that will be streamed online at FedCup.com at 12 noon (GMT).
It’s the best feeling in the world, to be honest, No matter what the crowd is like, when you’re playing with Australia written on your back, wearing the green and gold, it’s the best feeling, regardless if you’re home or away. Ashleigh Barty
The World Group play-offs will see qualifiers Great Britain, Brazil, Kazakhstan and Russia joined by the four World Group II losing nations Italy, Japan, Netherlands and Slovakia.
The losing World Group nations Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany and USA and the World Group II winners Canada, Latvia, Spain and Switzerland will take part in the World Group play-offs.
The seeds will be based on the Fed Cup Nations Ranking published Monday 11 February.
It was all sorted after a thrilling weekend of Fed Cup by BNP Paribas action when the semi-final line-ups were confirmed.
France will play host to Romania, after the French made light work of Belgium in Liege and Romania clinched a thriller in Ostrava, while Australia will be at home against Belarus after the Australians battled past USA in Asheville and Belarus blasted Germany off the court in Braunschweig.
The Fed Cup semi-finals and the play-offs will all take place on 20-21 April, and Britain is desperately hoping for a home tie from the draw on Tuesday.
Romania reached the Fed Cup semi-finals for the first time on Sunday with a 3-2 win over defending champions Czech Republic as Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu stunned Wimbledon and French Open winners Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in a marathon doubles decider.
Begu and Niculescu triumphed 6-7(7) 6-4 6-4 in a thrilling rubber in Ostrava, which lasted just seven minutes short of three hours.
Krejcikova and Siniakova, the world’s leading pair, trailed a break early in the final set before hitting back to 4-4.
The Romanian pair, however, broke straight back for 5-4 before Begu, ranked at 35 in doubles, served out the tie.
The result ended the 10-time champions Czechs’ hopes of making the Fed Cup semi-finals for an 11th successive year and represented their first home defeat in a decade.
Earlier, Simona Halep won the battle of the former World No 1s with an epic 6-4 5-7 6-4 triumph over Karolina Pliskova, the Czechs’ highest-ranked player in the absence of World No 3 Petra Kvitova.
“I am happy to have won against such a tough opponent,” said Halep after winning her second singles of the weekend. “It was my best and biggest win in the Fed Cup.”
Katerina Siniakova, who won both her singles rubbers in the 2018 final triumph over the United States, pulled the Czechs level by seeing off Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-4 6-2.
French Open champion Halep had said that winning a first Fed Cup for Romania was now the top priority on her ‘bucket list’, having finally broken her Grand Slam drought in Paris last year.
In Liege, Caroline Garcia crowned her comeback from a two-year Fed Cup exile by leading France past Belgium and into a fourth semi-final in five years.
French No 1 Garcia brushed aside Belgium’s top player Elise Mertens, 6-2 6-3, to follow her opening day three-set win over Alison Van Uytvanck.
Her win gave two-time champions France an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie before Belgium grabbed a consolation point in the dead doubles rubber.
“Two years is not that long in a tennis career,” said Garcia, who opted out of the Fed Cup in 2017 following an ugly public spat with her teammates.
“But I always said that I would come back and that it was important to me.”
At Asheville, North Carolina, Ashleigh Barty won in both singles and doubles as Australia edged the 18-time champions United States, 3-2, in another tie that came down to the wire.
Continuing her bright start to the season, the World No 13, who reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at her home Australian Open last month, beat Sofia Kenin and Madison Keys in the singles before teaming up with Priscilla Hon in the decisive doubles tie to seal a tense 3-2 away win.
Barty overcame a shaky start to steamroll Keys, 6-4 6-1, after losing her first two service games to trail 0-3 in the first set, but was able to grind her way back and dominate 17th ranked American.
“It’s the best feeling in the world, to be honest,” Barty told reporters.
“No matter what the crowd is like, when you’re playing with Australia written on your back, wearing the green and gold, it’s the best feeling, regardless if you’re home or away.”
The tie was left hanging in the balance following a meltdown by Daria Gavrilova, who smashed her racket after losing to Danielle Collins, 6-1 3-6 6-2, to even proceedings for America ahead of the doubles.
Gavrilova, who has been in poor form all year, did not play in the first set of singles matches but was put in after Barty defeated Keys to put the Aussies up 2-1, and was also set to feature in the doubles.
At the last moment Captain Alicia Molik replaced her by youngster Priscilla Hon, and the pairing with Barty proved to be a winning combination as they took out Collins and Nicole Melichar in straight sets, 6-4 7-5.
Seven-times champions Australia, bidding for their first title since 1974, sealed their first semi-finals berth since 2014, and now will meet Belarus at home in April.
Third seeds Belarus, with twice Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka playing her first tie in three years, thrashed Germany 4-0.
Belarus would present a ‘very challenging tie’, Australian No 3 Daria Gavrilova admitted.
“They actually have a really young team, as well,” said the World No 47.
“[Aryna] Sabalenka is probably playing her best tennis right now. [Aliaksandra] Sasnovich is right behind her. She’s been pretty consistent. They’ve got Azarenka. She brings the experience to the team, but we’ll have the home advantage. Hopefully we can get to the finals.”
Belarus coasted into the semi-finals when World No 9 Sabalenka defeated Laura Siegemund, 6-1 6-1, for an unassailable 3-0 lead over Germany, playing without Angelique Kerber or Julia Goerges, in Braunschweig.
“I am so happy and our team is so happy. It’s unbelievable to win,” said the 20-year-old Sabalenka, who dropped just 5 games in 4 sets all weekend.
Fed Cup Results:
Czech Republic 2 Romania 3
Saturday: Karolina Pliskova (CZE) bt Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROM), 6-1 6-4; Simona Halep (ROM) bt Katerina Siniakova (CZE), 6-4 6-0
Sunday: Halep (ROM) bt Pliskova (CZE), 6-4 5-7 6-4; Siniakova (CZE) bt Buzarnescu (ROM), 6-4 6-2; Irina-Camelia Begu/Monica Niculescu (ROM) bt Barbora Krejcikova/Siniakova (CZE), 6-7(7) 6-4 6-4.
Belgium 1 France 3
Saturday: Caroline Garcia (FRA) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL), 7-6(2) 4-6 6-2; Alize Cornet (FRA) bt Elise Mertens (BEL), 7-6(6) 6-2.
Sunday: Garcia (FRA) bt Mertens (BEL), 6-2 6-3; Ysaline Bonaventure/Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) bt Fiona Ferro/Pauline Parmentier (FRA), 6-3 3-6 [10-6]; Van Uytvanck (BEL) v Cornet (FRA) – not played.
Germany 0 Belarus 4
Saturday: Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) bt Tatjana Maria (GER), 7-6(3) 6-3; Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) bt Andrea Petkovic (GER), 6-2 6-1.
Sunday: Sabalenka (BLR) bt Laura Siegemund (GER), 6-1 6-1; Victoria Azarenka/Lidziya Marozava (BLR) bt Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Mona Barthel (GER), 6-1 0-6 [11-9]; Petkovic (GER) v Sasnovich (BLR) – not played.
USA 2 Australia 3
Saturday: Ashleigh Barty (AUS) bt Sofia Kenin (USA), 6-1 7-6(2); Madison Keys (USA) bt Kimberly Birrell, (AUS), 6-2 6-2.
Sunday: Barty (AUS) bt Keys (USA), 6-4 6-1; Danielle Collins (USA) bt Daria Gavrilova, (AUS), 6-1 3-6 6-2; Barty/Priscilla Hon (AUS) bt Collins/Nicole Melichar (USA), 6-4 7-5.