Fed Cup | World Group review
One of the most dominant nations in recent years looks set to be facing off against the nation that has collected the most titles in Fed Cup history. Both are now one tie way from making the November final.
Both the Czech Republic and the USA came through their quarter-final matches with comfortable 3-1 victories and will now respectively face, on the 21-22 April, Belarus and France for that final place.
The Czech Republic, five-time champions in the past seven years, beat Switzerland to advance to its 10th straight Fed Cup semi-finals on Sunday, while Serena Williams played her first competitive match in more than a year as the US, the defending champions and 18-time winners of the competition, defeated the Netherlands by a similar scoreline.
The Czechs travel to Germany, which reached its first semi-finals since 2015 after beating 2017 finalist Belarus 3-2 in Minsk. The US goes to France, which defeated Belgium 3-2.
Dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova led her nation to victory over the Swiss winning both her singles, Viktorija Golubic 6-2 1-6 6-2 and then their No.1 Belinda Bencic 6-2 6-4 in the first reverse singles to give the Czechs an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the first-round match in Prague.
The world number 21 romped into the lead with two breaks of serve as she overpowered Bencic who could not deal with the big lefty forehand that she faced and was on the back foot for most of the match.
After 37 minutes Kvitova comfortably served out the first set 6-2 as she continued to punish Bencic for her errors. The second set was a tighter affair as the world number 73 managed to deal with Kvitova’s presence much better and used her big shots to move the tall Czech Republican around.
However, Kvitova, who was making an emotional return to the Fed Cup scene, managed to secure a crucial break in the seventh game to halt the Bencic momentum. Despite several opportunities, Bencic could not break her opponent down and was left frustrated as Kvitova served out the match to complete her 6-2 6-4 victory to make sure her nation secured an historic tenth consecutive Fed Cup Semi-Final.
The other point came from Barbora Strycova who also outplayed Bencic 6-2 6-4.
The second reverse singles was cancelled but Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky and Jil Teichmann defeated Lucie Safarova and Strycova 1-6 6-4 10-8 in the final doubles rubber to at least gain a point.
The Czechs next opponents, Germany met Belarus for the first time without its three leading singles players. Nonetheless Tatjana Maria won the first reverse singles for Germany against the 19-year-old Fed Cup debutant Vera Lapko (who was drafted in as a replacement for Aecksandra Sanovich who fell ill overnight) 6-4 5-7 6-0 for a 2-1 lead, having lost the opening rubber to Aryna Sabalenka 4-6 6-1 6-2.
Aryna Sabalenka then tied the match 2-2 by beating German newcomer Antonia Lottner 6-3 5-7 6-2. But straight after that two-hour match, Sabalenka returned for the deciding doubles without regular partner Sasnovich.
She partnered with Lidziya Marozava for the first time to edge out Maria and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-7(4) 7-5 6-4 for Germany to progress against the Czechs who they last met in the 2014 final where they lost 3-1.
Meanwhile in Asheville, North Carolina, the long awaited loudly trumpeted return of Serena Williams who was scheduled to play in the doubles rubber only. Fortunately it wasn’t a crucial rubber as the Americans had wrapped up the tie with the first reverse singles when big sister Venus dispatched Holland’s Richel Hogenkamp 7-5 6-1 to put them 3-0 up against The Netherlands and secure their 150th win in the competition.
Their opening rubbers saw Venus Williams ease past Arantxa Rus 6-1 6-4 while CoCo Vandeweghe recovered from losing the opening set to beat Hogenkamp 4-6 7-6(6) 6-3. With the fourth rubber cancelled, the Williams sisters took to the court only to suffer a 6-2 6-3 defeat at the hands of Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs.
The 3-1 win sets the Americans up against France who squeezed past Belgium 3-2, the tie being decided by the doubles rubber after the two teams split the singles.
Pauline Parmentier lost her opening rubber to Elise Mertens 6-2 6-1 but Kristina Mladenovic levelled on day one beating Kirsten Flipkens 6-2 6-4. France edged ahead on the second day when Mladenovic took the opening rubber inflicting a second defeat on Mertens (6-4 6-4) only for Alison van Uytvanck to level the tie with a 6-1 6-3 win over Parmentier.
The doubles rubber consequently became crucial and it was Amanda Hesse with Mladenovic who eventually brought the French home defeating Flipkens and Mertens 6-4 2-6 6-2 in hat was the closest tie of the weekend.