Paris - Simona Halep's dream of adding a maiden Fed Cup title to her Roland
Garros breakthrough triumph was on a knife-edge Saturday as Romania and
France ended the opening day of their semi-final locked at 1-1.
World number two Halep outclassed Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-1 in the
northern French city of Rouen where 1 000 Romanian fans drowned out the
larger home support.
French number one Caroline Garcia, the world number 21, then made a
point of cupping her ear to the Romanian fans after easing to a 6-3, 6-3
win over 30th-ranked Mihaela Buzarnescu as the opening day ended all
"I have won a Grand Slam, been world number one and now this is the
next goal," Halep told fedcup.com after her eighth successive win in the
tournament which last saw Romania make the final in 1973.
"It was hard to control my emotions but here in this arena, there are so many Romanians that I felt we were playing at home.
"They were louder than the French and the energy they gave us was amazing."
French captain Julien Benneteau took a gamble on Mladenovic, who
reached the top 10 in late 2017 but had won only 24 of her last 70
matches to slip to 66 in the world.
Mladenovic had won three of her five encounters with Halep but on
Saturday struggled in her service games and did not have the tools to
stop the Romanian steamroller.
Garcia then claimed a third win in three singles rubbers since she
returned from a two-year exile after falling out with her Fed Cup
Buzarnescu was unable to ride the wave of Romanian support and remains without a singles win in the Fed Cup in seven years.
In the other semi-final in Brisbane, Australia and Belarus also
shared the spoils with world number nine Ashleigh Barty sweeping past
Victoria Azarenka after Aryna Sabalenka had ground down veteran Samantha
While Belarus are bidding to reach the final for the second time in
three attempts, after being beaten by the United States in 2017,
Australia are targeting their first decider in 26 years.
It's been an even longer wait between titles, with the last of Australia's seven victories coming in 1974.
"I'm so proud of the level of tennis the girls put on today," said Australia captain Alicia Molik.
"It's a great position we're in and we are prepared for a fifth rubber if necessary."
An ice cool Barty, who has rocketed through the ranks, breaking into
the top 10 with her win at the Miami Open this month, proved too much
for tour doubles partner Azarenka at the Pat Rafter Arena, winning 7-6
It hauled Australia back into the tie after world number 10 Sabalenka
toiled for 2hrs 47mins to battle past former US Open champion Stosur
7-5, 5-7, 6-3 in the opening rubber.
Results from the Fed Cup semi-finals on Saturday:
Australia 1 Belarus 1
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) bt Samantha Stosur (AUS) 7-5, 5-7, 6-3
Ashleigh Barty (AUS) bt Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 7-6 (7/2), 6-3
Playing on Sunday
Ashleigh Barty (AUS) v Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
Samantha Stosur (AUS) v Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Ashleigh Barty/Samantha Stosur (AUS) v Lidziya Marozava/Vera Lapko (BLR)
France 1 Romania 1
Simona Halep (ROM) bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-3, 6-1
Caroline Garcia (FRA) bt Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROM) 6-3, 6-3
Playing on Sunday
Caroline Garcia (FRA) v Simona Halep (ROM)
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROM)
Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Irina-Camelia Begu/ Monica Niculescu (ROM)