Fed Cup roundup: Germany reaches semis, France tops Switzerland
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- Germany reached the semifinals of the Fed Cup on Sunday after Angelique Kerber won the first reverse singles to clinch the first-round series against Slovakia.
Ninth-ranked Kerber defeated Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 7-6 (5) on the indoor hard court at Bratislava's National Tennis Center for the first German victory in the Fed Cup World Group since 2002.
Germany will face Australia in April in its first semifinal since 1995.
In the doubles, Slovakia's Jana Cepelova teamed up with Magdalena Rybarikova to beat Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 and reduce the German overall victory to 3-1.
Kerber converted her first match point in a tiebreaker when Cibulkova's forehand went wide.
Kerber broke Cibulkova three times in the opening set which she clinched with a forehand winner.
Germany took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series on Saturday after Kerber overcame Daniela Hantuchova 7-6 (9), 6-1 and Andrea Petkovic upset Cibulkova 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2.
PARIS -- Alize Cornet and Kristina Mladenovic beat Belinda Bencic and Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-4 in doubles Sunday to give France a 3-2 win over Switzerland in their first-round tie of the Fed Cup World Group II.
Mladenovic's quick hands at the net made the difference while Bencic's inexperience in doubles showed.
"We took a lot of pleasure," Mladenovic told Sport Plus television. "It's extremely difficult to play in such conditions, but our doubles team showed a lot of quality. We complemented each other very well. We had a great time on the court."
Cornet and Mladenovic celebrated their victory with a chest bump while a disappointed Bencic shed tears on her chair.
In a first set with five service breaks, the Swiss pair took a 4-1 lead. But Bencic then failed to serve out the set at 5-3 before Bacsinszky sent a forehand wide to drop serve at 5-5. Cornet hit a backhand winner to help France go a set up.
The hosts broke Bencic in the fifth game of the second set but Mladenovic committed three double-faults to drop serve in the next game. Mladenovic made amends by earning the decisive break at 3-3 with a forehand volley and the French pair won the match when Bacsinszky's backhand sailed long.
On April 19-20, France and Switzerland will compete in playoffs. France will try to gain promotion to the World Group while Switzerland will aim to stay in World Group II.
Earlier, Cornet beat Bacsinszky 6-2, 7-6 (4) to give France a 2-1 lead before teenager Bencic eased past Virginie Razzano 6-1, 6-1 to bring Switzerland level with France at 2-2.
Cornet won six straight games to rally from a 2-0 deficit and take the first set. The 25th-ranked Frenchwoman broke back twice in the second set before Bacsinszky saved a match point at 5-4.
In the tiebreaker, Cornet jumped to a 5-2 lead and clinched victory when Bacsinszky's backhand sailed wide.
"Amelie kept her trust in me today and I'm glad I did not prove her wrong," Cornet said in reference to France captain Amelie Mauresmo.
Bencic showed great composure to break Razzano five times in a one-sided rubber.
"I just played with no pressure," Bencic told Sport Plus television. "I just enjoyed the match. I was so relaxed."
Bencic took a 4-0 lead and won the first set when Razzano netted a volley.
The 16-year-old Swiss capitalized on two forehand errors from Razzano to also break serve at 2-1 and 4-1 in the final set.
Bencic converted her third match point when the 30-year-old Razzano sent a backhand into the net.
"I couldn't do anything against her today," Razzano told Sport Plus television. "I think she's an unbelievable player. She plays some dream tennis. Her future is promising."
In Saturday's singles, Razzano dismissed Stefanie Voegele 6-2, 6-1 to put France ahead before Bencic upset Cornet 7-5, 6-4 to even the tie.
CLEVELAND -- Karin Knapp won her second match of the weekend and gave Italy a 3-1 win over the United States in their Fed Cup first-round match on Sunday.
Knapp defeated American Alison Riske 6-3, 7-5 to give Italy the victory in the best-of-five series.
She held a 5-2 lead in the second set, only to let Riske tie it at five. But Knapp regained the momentum and closed out the match.
"I got a little bit nervous, I got a little bit of emotion," Knapp said. "But I tried to continue my game, to hit the ball hard, to command the game."
Knapp also defeated Christina McHale on Saturday, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Camila Giorgi defeated Madison Keys 6-2, 6-1 in Saturday's second match.
U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez chose the 46th-ranked Riske over Keys, who is the team's top-ranked player at No. 37 in the world, as Knapp's opponent.
Riske fought hard through the second set and appeared to gain control before Knapp shut the door.
"I had to do something differently because she was completely attacking me. I tried to be the first one to go after it," Riske said. "She was serving really well today."
Lauren Davis and Madison Keys of the United States earned a 6-2, 6-3 win in the doubles match against Nastassja Burnett and Alice Matteucci.
Italy moves on to the World Group semifinals April 19-20 to face either Spain or the Czech Republic, whose first-round tie has been extended into Monday because of rain.
"I said this morning, `If we win we have to jump into the snow."' Knapp said. "So after, we will all put the jacket on, the scarf on and we will jump in the snow."
The United States moves to the World Group Playoff in April and will need to win in order to stay in the World Group. The U.S. Fed Cup team is 0-11 after trailing 0-2 after the first day of play since the World Group format began in 1995.
SEVILLE, Spain (AP) -- Barbora Zahlavova and Andrea Hlavackova put the Czech Republic into the Fed Cup semifinals after winning the final doubles point against Spain on Monday.
The Czechs rallied from a 2-1 deficit to play Italy in the last four for the second consecutive year following a 7-6 (7), 6-3 victory over Carla Suarez Navarro and Silvia Soler-Espinosa.
Rain wreaked havoc on the weekend schedule, forcing the first-round tie to a third day.
Suarez Navarro put Spain up 2-1 on Monday following her second singles victory.
Lucie Safarova returned to the court to keep Czech hopes alive with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 win over Soler-Espinosa.
The visitors seized the momentum in the deciding rubber of the best-of-five tie by winning the first-set tiebreaker on the clay.
Germany and Australia meet in the other semifinal, which will be played on April 19-20.
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