Czech Republic stunned: Romania send the 10-time champions’ packing off Fed Cup

Paris: 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 (2/7) 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. But the Romanian pair 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 number ones with an epic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 triumph over Karolina Pliskova.

Romania will now travel to France in April’s semi-finals while the other last-four clash sees Belarus up against either the United States or Australia. 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.

At Asheville in North Carolina, Ashleigh Barty notched up a 10th successive win in the tournament by seeing off Madison Keys 6-4, 6-1 to give Australia a 2-1 lead over 18-time champions the United States. Belarus coasted into the semi-finals when world number nine Aryna Sabalenka defeated Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 for an unassailable 3-0 lead over Germany in Braunschweig.

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