Mon, Feb 11, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Halep, Pliskova see winning starts

AFP, PARIS

Romania’s Simona Halep returns against the Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova in their Fed Cup first-round match at the Ostravar Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Former world No. 1s Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep won their opening matches as the Fed Cup clash between defending champions the Czech Republic and Romania ended 1-1 on Saturday’s opening day.

Pliskova, her country’s top player in the absence of world No. 2 Petra Kvitova, swept past Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-1, 6-4, before Halep disposed of Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-0 to bring Romania level.

“I’m excited, but I can’t afford to get overexcited,” said Australian Open semi-finalist Pliskova, who is hoping to inspire the Czech Republic to an 11th successive appearance in the past four of the Fed Cup.

Her caution is understandable as she trails Halep 6-2 in career meetings.

However, Pliskova won their last clash on clay in Madrid last year, as well as coming out on top in a 2016 Fed Cup World Group clash over three sets.

French Open champion Halep has already vowed to win a first Fed Cup for Romania before she retires, describing it as “the first thing on her bucket list now,” having ticked off a maiden Grand Slam crown at Roland Garros last year.

In Liege, two-time champions France dominated Belgium for a 2-0 lead.

Top 20 player Caroline Garcia, returning to the French squad for the first time in two years, after a bitter fall-out with teammates following the 2016 final, earned the opening point with a 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 6-2 win over Alison Van Uytvanck.

“There was a little stress, a little tension,” French No. 1 Garcia said. “But it was the same thing the last time I came back to the team — nothing different, nothing more.”

On the back of an 86-minute first set, Alize Cornet then made it 2-0 by seeing off Belgian No. 1 Elise Mertens 7-6 (8/6), 6-2. It was Cornet’s first win in the competition in five years, as she made a mockery of the 30 places separating her from Mertens in the world rankings.

Belarus, the 2017 runners-up, comfortably moved 2-0 ahead of Germany in Braunschweig, with straight set wins for Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Aryna Sabalenka.

Sasnovich defeated Tatjana Maria 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 before world No. 9 Sabalenka needed just over an hour to defeat Andrea Petkovic.

The winners of that tie are to face either 18-time champions the United States, who were runners-up to the Czech Republic last year, or Australia, the Fed Cup victors on seven occasions.

The competition’s two most successful nations were locked at 1-1 in Asheville, North Carolina, after Saturday’s opening singles.

Ashleigh Barty extended her Fed Cup winning streak to nine by seeing off Sofia Kenin 6-1, 7-6 (7/2) before world No. 17 Madison Keys easily defeated Kimberly Birrell, ranked 157, in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 to pull the United States level.

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