Romania upsets Czechs in Fed Cup, France, Belarus advance

Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova in action during her match against Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu. David W Cerny Reuters

Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova in action during her match against Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu. David W Cerny Reuters

Halep won her sixth Fed Cup singles match in a row by beating world number five Karolina Pliskova 6-4 5-7 6-4 to put the Romanians one win away from the last four.

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. "I just have it in my head that I beat her [in the Fed Cup three years ago] when we won". However, as Mihaela Buzarnescu lost both her matches (1-6, 4-6 with Pliskova and 4-6, 2-6 against Siniakova), the doubles match was decisive for Romania's victory.

The winners of that tie will face either 18-time champions United States, who were runners-up to the Czechs in 2018, or Australia, the Fed Cup victors on seven occasions.

France in Liege confidently defeated Belgium.

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French number one 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.

Karolina saved a match point to prolong the encounter but that was all she could do, allowing Simona to seal the deal with a hold at 15 in game ten, firing a service victor in the last point to push Romania 2-1 up before the remaining rubbers.

The Australian Open semifinalist, tabbed as the No.1 player for the 11-time champions when Australian Open finalist Petra Kvitova withdrew from the tie, served six aces and saved all three break points she faced in the match against the World No.29.

"It's Fed Cup, so the pressure is more but it's an open match and I think I'll fight for that chance and I'll be motivated, playing for my country".

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In Asheville, Australia was leading the USA 2-1 with Ashleigh Barty beating Madison Keys 6-4 6-1 for their second point before Danielle Collins evened things up with a 6-1 3-6 6-2 win over Daria Gavrilova.

Belarus is in a similarly strong position, thanks to Aliaksandra Sasnovich's 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 success over Tatjana Maria in Braunschweig combined with Aryna Sabalenka's 6-2, 6-1 demolition of Andrea Petkovic. "I just lost two times so far and two times was Grand Slam winners, so if it continues like this, I'm happy".

The match kicked off with back-to-back breaks and it was Halep who earned another one in game nine when Pliskova sprayed a forehand error, realizing the fifth set point in the following game for a 6-4.

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.

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