PARIS: Barbora Strycova got holders the Czech Republic off to a winning 1-0 start in the Fed Cup semi-final yesterday as the Netherlands lead France by the same scoreline. In Lucerne, Strycova needed just 65 minutes to demolish world number 17 Timea Bacsinszky 6-0, 6-2 to give hosts Switzerland a battle as they bid for a first Fed Cup final appearance since 1998. It was a first Fed Cup win for 33rdranked Strycova who had lost all three of her previous singles ties in the competition.
In an early upset, France were trailing in the western town of Trelaze after Kiki Bertens saw off Caroline Garcia 6-4, 6-2. Bertens, ranked 96, dominated France’s number two player Garcia, ranked 45, calmly converting her only break point opportunity in the first set. She increased the pressure in the second to wrap up the tie after one hour and 11 minutes at the Arena Loire, to notch up her 14th win for just one singles defeat in Fed Cup. “I think the key to my success was to serve well,” said Bertens.
“On my first service game I was 0-40, but I hit two aces and from that moment I gained in confidence.” France’s Kristina Mladenovic, ranked 28, next takes on 139th-ranked Richel Hogenkamp in the second singles tie on Saturday. France are chasing a first finals appearance since 2005 and had gone into their tie on clay as heavy favourites against surprise semi-finalists the Netherlands. Switzerland will now look for Viktoriya Golubic to upset Karolina Pliskova in the second rubber to get back into the tie. The hosts had suffered a blow as Swiss number one Belinda Bencic pulled out of the tie with a back injury. The Czechs will be counting on 18th-ranked Pliskova as they look to keep their bid for a fifth title in six years on track. — AFP