Reigning French Open champion Simona Halep has pledged to fully commit herself to the Fed Cup after helping guide Romania to a shock win over the weekend.
Halep recorded wins over Katerina Siniakova and Karolina Pliskova during her country’s surprise 3-2 win over heavyweights the Czech Republic. A team who has won the title in six of the past eight years of the competition. The deciding win was clinched in the doubles when Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu defeated Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-4 in a match that lasted just under three hours.
“It was my biggest and best win in the Fed Cup and to win both rubbers against the Czech Republic means a lot to me because they have such a big history in this competition,” Halep told reporters following her win over Pliskova.
Romania now finds themselves in the semifinals of the competition for the first time since 1973. Last year the team defeated Canada in Group II and then won their play-off tie against Switzerland to graduate to the top tier of the competition. They have a winning 6-3 record in the Fed Cup since 2015.
Reflecting on the latest triumph, Halep believes it will help inspire the next generation of players in her home country. During an interview with Telekom Sport on Sunday, the former world No.1 say she will ‘give her all’ to the team this year.
“It was a very tensed match, it was even harder in the stands. I was very nervous. Monica asked me before if I want to get in court, but I told her she is better.” The Romanian Journal quoted Halep as saying.
“We all made a huge effort for this game. We played against a big champion, Czech Republic. the girls are extraordinary, they left their heart on the court, so they managed to win.
“As I said before, this year I am giving all for the Fed Cup team. It is a huge step for us, for our country. The little ones who start playing tennis can trust us. This Fed Cup means something.”
Hoping to reach the final for the first time in history, Romania will take on France in the semi-finals in April. A country they last played back in 1976 at the Spectrum Stadium in Philadelphia, America. France defeated Belgium 3-1 in their quarter-final tie.
The semi-final tie will be held in France at a yet to be confirmed venue. In the other semi-final, Australia will take on Belarus.
Captain Benneteau ‘Proud’ After France Seal First Fed Cup For 16 Years
Kristina Mladenovic won both the matches she was involved with to seal the Fed Cup title for France.
France’s Fed Cup captain Julien Benneteau expressed his pride after France edged out Australia 3-2 in the Fed Cup final.
The visitors claimed their first Fed Cup title for 16 years in Perth after Kristina Mladenovic won both of the matches she was involved with.
It all started after Mladenovic produced one of the greatest wins of her career by edging out world number one Ash Barty 2-6 6-4 7-6(1) in the first match of the day.
Both players had convincing wins on day one and it was the Australian who started the strongest, claiming the first set 6-2.
However Mladenovic struck back in the second set with a crucial break at 5-4 as she closed out the set to force a decider.
There was a lot of momentum shifts in the deciding set but eventually the world number 40 dominated the tiebreak to seal a shock win and a 2-1 lead for France.
Australia hit back in the second rubber of the day as Ajla Tomljanovic produced a solid performance to defeat Pauline Parmentier 6-4 7-5.
After a convincing loss in day one, Tomljanovic produced stunning shot-making to redeem herself and score her first Fed Cup win as an Australian.
The deciding rubber was a highly-anticipated doubles match between Ash Barty and Sam Stosur taking on Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.
All four players had a combined total of 13 doubles grand slam titles as Australia had a good start to the match but lacked clinical edge after that.
The French team took advantage as they won the last two games of the opening set and the first two games of the second set.
This allowed them to control the tempo and when Stosur hit a volley long, the celebrations could start as they sealed a 6-4 6-3 win.
After the match, Captain Julien Benneteau expressed his pride at his French side, “I’m the proudest man on the planet right now,” Benneteau claimed.
“I’m so proud of my girls and the team, they deserve it because they fought for a long time for this title. It’s a dream for me. I tried to imagine that at the beginning of the year when I knew that I could have the best team with me on the court. Eight months later, here we are.”
The win means it’s France’s third Fed Cup triumph overall and their first since 2003, with Kristina Mladenovic winning all three of the matches she was involved with.
As for Australia, it was emotional scenes as Barty didn’t seem to have enough in the tank to edge the Aussies over the finish line.
This final also means its the last traditional final as the format will now to change a one-week 12 team contest which will take place next April in Budapest.
Ash Barty And Kristina Mladenovic Power To Victory On Day One At Fed Cup Final
Ash Barty and Kristina Mladenovic produced one-sided victories to keep the score level after day one of the Fed Cup Final.
Ash Barty and Kristina Mladenovic produced dominant displays to keep Australia and France level at the end of day one of the Fed Cup Final.
In front of a sold-out RAC Arena in Perth, Australia were bidding for their first Fed Cup title since 1974 as they took on a reunited French team.
However their bid got off to the worst possible start as a nervy Ajla Tomljanovic was stunned by Kristina Mladenovic in 72 minutes.
Hitting 16 winners, the world number 40 pummelled her way past Tomljanovic to hand the visitors the early advantage.
Though the Australian debutant showed moments of brilliance, they were in patches as Mladenovic produced a stunning performance for the French team.
After the match, the doubles grand slam champion admitted she played the perfect match, “I really did almost a perfect match, I was really in the zone,” Mladenovic said in her on-court interview.
“I love these kind of events — the more the pressure it is, the bigger the pressure it is, the more special is the event. I came out there and I just wanted to win, basically.”
As France held the early lead, the pressure was on world number one Ash Barty to deliver and deliver she did in an equally impressive performance.
A 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Caroline Garcia was exactly what Australia ordered as Barty was ruthless in her dismantling of the French number two.
Eight aces helped Barty power past the world number 45 and the 40 degree temperatures as a mix of variety as well as power was evidence why every rubber the hosts of win this year has involved Barty.
After the 56 minute win the world number one explained how she executed her game-plan, “I think just overall today I executed very well. I made Caro pretty uncomfortable,” Barty said.
“I felt like in the first three or four of my service games I was in control of a lot of the points, and Caro is a player who like court position, she likes to be up in the court. So that was a key factor for me today. And that’s probably the best I’ve returned in a long long time.”
It is now 15 wins in a row for Barty in Fed Cup as she takes on Kristina Mladenovic in a crucial third rubber tomorrow.
Then Caroline Garcia is scheduled to take on Ajla Tomljanovic although both teams could be set to make changes depending on the scenario.
Should the two nations split the singles again then the deciding doubles will see Ash Barty and Sam Stosur take on Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.
Play begins from 3am GMT time tomorrow, in what will be the last day of a traditional Fed Cup Final before the re-formatted version begins next year.
Ash Barty Heads Australia’s Bid To End Their 45-Year Fed Cup Title Drought
Will it be jubilation or heartbreak for team Australian this weekend?
When Australia last won the Fed Cup, none of the participants in this weekend’s final was even born. Including both the team captains.
1974 was the last time the country triumphed in the team tournament. A perhaps surprising statistic for a country who is the third most decorated in the history of the competition. World No.1 Ash Barty will lead her team when they played France on home soil in Perth. It is the first time in almost 20 years the two have locked horns with both being optimistic about their chances of victory.
“When you are playing for your country and you are playing in a Fed Cup final, it is pretty easy to get up and about and be as ready as you can,” said Barty, who recently won the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.
“It’s a format that I love, I cherish it. This is going to be a really precious week.”
Barty’s performance in the final could be critical to Australia’s hopes. She is the only top 50 player in her team, but Ajla Tomljanovic is just outside in 51st place. In comparison, France has four players ranked inside the top 65 in the singles. Kristina Mladenovic is also the current world No.2 in doubles. Something Barty is wary of.
“Kiki has the ability to play well in the big moments,” she told AAP.
“Obviously she was on a bit of a heater in Shenzhen in doubles and she’s a beautiful doubles player. We’ve seen that time and time again.
“I’m sure, without knowing the team until Friday, that her name will feature heavily on Saturday and Sunday.
“So it’s someone I would love to play and try and right my wrongs from midway through the year when we played in Rome.”
Whilst being the visitors, France are by no means intimidated by the occasion. They have only won the title twice before with the most recent occurring back in 2003. Three years ago, they narrowly missed out on winning the trophy after losing the final match in their tie against the Czech Republic.
Caroline Garcia was one of the Frenchwomen who featured in the 2016 final. She believes that loss has made France even stronger.
“That final was a great lesson for me and all of us,” Garcia reflects. “We now have the experience of losing and we don’t want to have the feeling of losing a final again. We have been there before, whereas the Australian girls haven’t. It is an important factor for us.”
Ajla Tomljanovic has been chosen to open up Australia’s campaign on Saturday against Mladenovic. The match will be her first ever representing her country in the Fed Cup. The former Croatian No.1 was recently approved to play for Australia following an appeal to the ITF. A somewhat controversial decision in the aftermath of Aljaz Bedene’s failed attempt to represent Great Britain a couple years ago.
Tomljanovic was picked ahead of veteran player Sam Stosur. The 35-year-old has played 57 Fed Cup matches in her career and has played in 31 ties. She has won more singles matches in the competition than any other Australian player in history.
“It is exceptionally tough to decide your two singles players for day one. For us it was a matter of match-ups and I feel like we are going in with our strongest two players for Saturday,” said team captain Alicia Molik.
“I feel like it’s the right decision… within this team everyone brought such a high level in practice. It has been difficult, sets have been very close and that’s really the way that we want it. It should be a tough decision.”
As for the second singles match, Barty will take on Garcia. They are currently level at 2-2 in their head-to-head, But Barty won their most recent meeting at the Wuhan Open this year. However French captain, Julien Benneteau, is confident in his players.
“In the first two rounds (against Belgium and Romania), we proved that we could win with different players in singles. It is an advantage,” he stated.
The final will start on Saturday at 11:00 local time (0300 GMT).
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