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Defending champions Czechs face France in FedCup final

Czech tennis players Karolina Pliskova (L) and Lucie Hradeck celebrate after defeating Switzerland on April 17, 2016
AFP

Paris (AFP) – Karolina Pliskova and Lucie Hradecka secured the Czech Republic a fifth Fed Cup final appearance in six years with victory in the deciding doubles against Switzerland on Sunday.

Waiting for the defending champions in the November 12-13 final will be France, who edged the Netherlands in their semi-final in Trelaze.

The semi-final in Lucerne, level at 1-1 overnight, went down to the wire after Pliskova’s comfortable win over Timea Bacsinszky before a stunning 3-6,  7-6 (8/6) 6-1 comeback win from Viktorija Golubic against Barbora Strycova.

But Switzerland’s dream of making their first final since 1998 was ended when Pliskova and Hradecka despatched Golubic and Martina Hingis 6-2, 6-2 to take the tie 3-2.

Czech captain Petr Pala paid tribute to his team.

“It was sensational the way they played.

“The key was the depth of our team today. It gave me more opportunities to make the doubles team. It is a great feeling for the camp. The sprit is there, everybody wants to win the cup.” 

Swiss skipper Heinz Guenthardt said: “I am very proud of my team. We left everything out on the centre court and I don’t think there is any question or any doubt in anyone’s mind that we did that.

“You can’t ask of a team anything more than that.” 

France, all square with the Dutch at 1-1 after Saturday’s singles, progressed in similar fashion to the Czechs to make their first final since 2005.

Skippered by Amelie Mauresmo the French went into the tie on claycourt against surprise semi-finalists the Netherlands as clear favourites.

But the Dutch took a 2-1 lead courtesy of Kiki Bertens’s 7-5, 6-4 win over Kristina Mladenovic in Sunday’s opening match.

Caroline Garcia defeated Arantxa Rus 6-3, 6-4 to get the hosts back level, and then Garcia teamed up with Maldenovic in the concluding doubles against Bertens and Richel Hogenkamp to clinch the tie 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Dutch number 1 Bertens’s opening success was her 15th in FedCup singles and put the Dutch in sight of a Fed Cup final for the first time in 19 years.

Garcia then answered the pressure of the home fans at the Arena Loire in the west of France in fine style.

The French No.2 made amends after losing Saturday’s singles to Bertens, the 22-year-old seeing off Rus and then returning to help win the doubles to give France a shot at a third FedCup crown and first in 16 years.

“There was lost of frustration (after Saturday) but then it was as if an energy rose up, a desire to gain my revenge,” said Garcia.

She added: “The fact that Amelie had confidence in me gave me a lift.”

Dutch captain Paul Haarhuis said: “It’s difficult to get so close to your goal and then lose, it’s hard to take.”

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