Barbora Strycova sent defending champion Czech Republic to the semifinals of the Fed Cup with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Lara Arruabarrena of Spain in the second reverse singles match on Sunday.
The 17th-ranked Strycova failed to serve it out at 5-2, wasting two match points before closing out the encounter with a backhand drop shot on her fifth match point.
Her victory gave the Czech Republic an insurmountable 3-1 lead over Spain in the best-of-five first-round series. The final doubles match cannot overturn the Czech victory.
The Czechs who have won five of the last six Fed Cup titles will face the United States or Germany in the semis in April.
Strycova smashed a forehand winner the get a break in the fifth game of the second set and did the same in the seventh game to build a commanding 5-2 lead.
In the opening set, Strycova wasted a set point at 5-3 before serving it out.
The Czech broke for 4-3 lead and held her following service game that took almost 12 minutes with an overhead volley.
“That was a decisive game,” Strycova said. “I played well since.”
Earlier, Third-ranked Karolina Pliskova eased past French Open champion Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-2 in the first reverse singles to put the Czechs 2-1 ahead on the indoor hardcourt at the Ostravar Arena in the eastern city of Ostrava.
Pliskova won five of the six matches against her seventh-ranked opponent.
Big-hitting Pliskova had five aces and hit one of her ten forehand winners to go 3-1 up in the opening set. She also got a break for a 3-1 lead in the second.
On Saturday, Muguruza defeated Strycova 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 in the opening singles to put Spain 1-0 ahead before Pliskova tied it at 1-1 with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Arruabarrena.
Belarus in surprise win over Netherlands
With or without Victoria Azarenka, Belarus can still succeed on the tennis court. The former top-ranked player is taking time out with her baby son, but Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Aryna Sabalenka stepped up Sunday to beat the Netherlands 4-1 in the Fed Cup quarterfinals.
Sasnovich is ranked 104 places below Dutch world No. 24 Kiki Bertens, but didn’t let it show as she broke Bertens’ serve seven times in a 6-3, 6-4 win.
Next up was 18-year-old Sabalenka, who dug deep to beat veteran Michaelle Krajicek 7-6 (5), 6-4 and put Belarus in the Fed Cup semifinals for the first time with an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
Belarus finished off a strong weekend in the remaining dead-rubber doubles match when Olga Govortsova and Vera Lapko won 6-4, 6-2 against the Dutch duo of Cindy Burger and Arantxa Rus.
Belarus will face either Switzerland or France in April’s semifinals.