Reuters /Trelaze, France
Netherlands’ dream run in the Fed Cup ended agonisingly short of the final when they lost the deciding doubles rubber of a thrilling semi-final against France in Trelaze. When Kiki Bertens beat Kristina Mladenovic to put the Dutch 2-1 ahead yesterday the visitors had one foot in the final but Caroline Garcia levelled it up by beating 257th-ranked Arantxa Rus in straight sets.
Mladenovic and Garcia then teamed up to beat Bertens and Richel Hogenkamp, coming from a set down to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a nail-biting climax to the weekend. France have reached their first final since 2005 where they will be up against the Czech Republic, who also needed a final doubles rubber to win in Switzerland.
The Netherlands were unbeaten since 2013 despite a team full of lower-ranked players, beating Australia last year to reach the World Group and stunning Russia in the first round.
Karolina Pliskova and Lucie Hradecka booked the Czech Republic’s place in a fifth Fed Cup final when they beat Swiss duo Martina Hingis and Viktorija Golubic 6-2, 6-2. Golubic, ranked 129 in the world, had kept the Swiss in the hunt with two singles wins.
Four-times champions Italy were relegated from the World Group for the first time in 18 years after losing 4-0 in a playoff with Spain who return to the elite after a two-year absence.
Belarus caused an upset by beating Russia 3-1 in their World Group playoff, meaning the Russians are also relegated from the top group for the first time in 18 years.
Semi-final results - collated
At Lucerne, Switzerland
Czech Republic 3 Switzerland 2
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) bt Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) 6-4, 6-2
Viktorija Golubic (SUI) bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
Lucie Hradecka/Karolina Pliskova (CZE) bt Viktorija Golubic/Martina Hingis (SUI) 6-2, 6-2
France 3 Netherlands 2
Kiki Bertens (NED) bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 7-5, 6-4
Caroline Garcia (FRA) bt Arantxa Rus (NED 6-3, 6-4
Caroline Garcia/Kristina Maldenovic (FRA) bt Kiki Bertens/Richel Hogenkamp (NED) 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
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