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Thursday April 25th, 2019 3:58PM

Romania upsets Czechs in Fed Cup, France, Belarus advance

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

Romania made the last four 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 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.

Romania took a 2-1 lead on an indoor hard-court in Ostrava after Simona Halep defeated 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 after defeating Mihaela Burzanescu 6-4, 6-2.

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 with the second reverse singles not played.

In Braunschweig, Aryna Sabalenka cruised past Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 to give Belarus an insurmountable 3-0 lead over host Germany on an indoor hard court at the Volkswagen Halle.

The ninth-ranked Sabalenka hit 18 winners compared to 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.

Belarus, which lost the 2017 final to the United States, will face the U.S. or Australia in the semifinals in April.

In Asheville, North Carolina, Danielle Collins, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open, leveled the match at 2-2 after a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Daria Gavrilova.

Earlier, Ashleigh Barty beat Madison Keys 6-4, 6-1 to give Australia a 2-1 lead.

Collins and Nicole Melichar take on Barty and Priscilla Hon in the deciding doubles.

___

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