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Czech Republic vs Romania Fed Cup live streaming, preview and tips: Halep leads Romania to dramatic 3-2 win over defending champions

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 11 Feb 2019
  • Simona Halep has led Romania to a famous 3-2 win over defending Fed Cup champions Czech Republic in Ostrava
  • The former World No. 1 beat Karolina Pliskova in three sets on Day 2
  • Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu teamed up to beat the more fancied pairing of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova to seal the win
Simona Halep leads Romania's Fed Cup team against defending champions Czech Republic (DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)

Defending champions Czech Republic host a strong Romania side led by world no. 3 Simona Halep for a mouthwatering Fed Cup 2019 World Group tie in Ostrava.



RESULTS

Day One - CZE 1-1 ROU

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) d. Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU), 6-1, 6-4
Simona Halep (ROU) d. Katerina Siniakova (CZE), 6-4, 6-0

Day Two - Romania 3-2 Czech Republic

Simona Halep (ROU) def. Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 6-4 5-7 6-4
Katerina Siniakova (CZE) def. Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) 6-4 6-2
Irina-Camelia Begu/Monica Niculescu (ROU) def. Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4



Reigning French Open champion Simona Halep and the unlikely pairing of Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu propelled Romania to a dramatic and famous Fed Cup victory over defending champions Czech Republic in a thrilling tie on Sunday in Ostrava.

It’s been a tough last six months or so for Halep, but the former World No. 1 celebrated what she described as ‘close to my best day ever in my career’ when she conquered Karolina Pliskova in three sets to hand Romania a 2-1 lead. However, not to be outdone, Katerina Siniakova - who won two singles rubbers to steer Czech Republic to the Fed Cup title at the end of last year - showcased great mental strength to beat Mihaela Buzarnescu in straight sets to set up a deciding doubles rubber.

Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova were expected to complete the victory, with the pair reigning champions at the French Open and Wimbledon. However, nobody told Begu and Niculescu the script as the inventive doubles combination staged a magnificent comeback and claimed a memorable victory in three sets, handing the Romanian’s a 3-2 triumph and condemning the Czechs to their first exit in the World Group first round in a decade.



“I’m so happy to have won against such a tough opponent who’s in such good form, so I think it was a big day for me,” Halep said. “It was my biggest and best win in the Fed Cup and to win both rubbers against the Czech Republic means a lot to me because they have such a big history in this competition. It helps me for the future as well as now.”

DAY TWO PREVIEWS

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs Simona Halep (ROU), 12pm GMT
With the tie evenly poised at 1-1 in Ostrava, this clash between the top singles players could decide which nation progresses to April's Fed Cup semifinals as world no. 3 Simona Halep takes on world no. 5 Karolina Pliskova.

Both women looked very strong on Saturday. Pliskova, tasked with opening the tie against the tricky Mihaela Buzarnescu, said that she was nervous and hadn't been practicing well but there was no sign of any such thing as she breezed through the first set against Buzarnescu, who won two titles in 2018 but hasn't really found her feet again after a freak injury stopped her breakthrough season short last August. Buzarnescu managed to stave off Pliskova in a lengthy game early in the second set to hold serve and held the big-hitting Czech off for a further three service games, but at 4-4 Pliskova, who feasted gleefully on Buzarnescu's second serve throughout, produced some returns that were just too accurate even for the talented Romanian to handle off her shoelaces, broke and served out the match. 

That meant that Halep, the standard-bearer for the Romanian team, had to step up and deliver as she took on Katerina Siniakova, and the world no. 3 rose to the occasion superbly. Siniakova had played a crucial role in the Czech Republic's win last year, winning two singles rubbers in the final, but she was up against a different class of opponent now and it showed as Halep broke immediately and raced to a 5-2 lead, sealing the double break with a powerful forehand winner. She quickly went 40-0 up when serving for the set, but a slight dip of concentration combined with Siniakova raising her game, and the Czech saved four set points before breaking back and holding her own serve to force Halep to try to serve it out again. 

Halep went down 0-30, but swiftly regrouped and on her sixth set point, a smartly-placed second serve saw her take the 6-4 lead. Siniakova grew increasingly despondent in the face of Halep's relentless accuracy and consistency and the French Open champion closed out the win in fine style.

Now Halep must try, on Sunday, to perform at an even higher level against a very dangerous opponent. The Romanian has a 6-2 advantage in the head-to-head against Pliskova, but there are two concerns: Firstly, that Pliskova won their only previous Fed Cup meeting, back in 2016 in three sets; secondly, that Pliskova also won their last encounter, in Madrid last year. Still of their six hard-court encounters, Halep has won five of them in straight sets and her combination of returning, defense and shotmaking - plus her own much-improved serve - is a promising one against Pliskova. 

Katerina Siniakova (CZE) vs Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU), to follow
Like Halep and Pliskova, Katerina Siniakova and Mihaela Buzarnescu could be substituted for different players on Sunday - but it doesn't seem too likely that they will be: It's hard to imagine the Czechs going for the less-experienced Marketa Vondrousova instead of Siniakova. The Romanians are more likely to swap in Monica Niculescu for Buzarnescu if anybody is to be traded - neither of them have ever faced Siniakova so there's no historical advantage there, however.

I thought that Buzarnescu, despite an 0-3 singles record in 2019 coming into the tie (0-4 now), played fairly well on Saturday especially in the second set, and against Siniakova she will have a lot more opportunity to craft the rallies and shape the points than she did against first-strike Pliskova, which should stand her in good stead. Siniakova was error-strewn against Halep - although as always it's difficult to sift the unforced errors from the ones that Halep forces out of you with her superb defense - and her flat backhand wasn't anywhere near the reliable, significant weapon it needed to be. If the Czechs find themselves needing Siniakova to win this one to keep the tie alive and send it to a deciding doubles, they may be in trouble.

Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova (CZE) vs Irina-Camelia Begu/Monica Niculescu (ROU), to follow
Should the Czechs push the tie to a decisive fifth rubber, the advantage will swing back to them in style, because in the youthful pairing of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, they have the world no. 1 and 2 doubles players - not to mention the option of subbing in the big-serving Pliskova if there are any injury concerns for Siniakova. If it does go to a fifth rubber, look for Simona Halep to potentially take the court alongside Begu or Niculescu - both of whom she has played Fed Cup rubbers alongside - but it would be a huge ask for the Romanians to beat the world's top doubles team.

DAY ONE PREVIEWS

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU), 12pm GMT
Leading the team in the absence of world no. 2 Petra Kvitova, it's up to big-serving Karolina Pliskova to get the Czech Republic's title defense off to a winning start in Ostrava as she takes on Mihaela Buzarnescu.

Karolina Pliskova is an experienced Fed Cup competitor (Photo by THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP) 
Playing her eighth Fed Cup tie, Pliskova owns a 10-4 win-loss record in singles and has scored some crucial wins over the likes of Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza and Kristina Mladenovic in recent times, playing a significant role in the Czech Republic's triumph in the 2015 and 2016 finals. Pliskova only played one tie in each of the past two years, but her role in the 2018 semifinal was crucial as she set the tone for the tie by inflicting a stunning straight-sets defeat on Angelique Kerber, Germany's top player, at home in Stuttgart. 

The Czech comes into the tie on fine form with a 10-1 record so far in 2019, having won the Brisbane International and then made the semifinals of the Australian Open via an unlikely but memorable comeback win over Serena Williams. Like most big servers, she relishes indoor conditions, has never seemed particularly afflicted by nerves when playing at home and owns a 2-0 head-to-head vs her opponent Buzarnescu, although it's worth noting that their only relevant meeting at Wimbledon last summer did go to three sets.

Buzarnescu was one of the stories of 2018 as the Romanian, who owns a PhD in sports science and whose career had been decimated by injuries, followed a 2017 season which saw her rise 470 places in the rankings with a stellar 2018 which saw her win a Premier-level title in San Jose, reach finals in Hobart and Prague, and reach the round of 16 at the French Open. Buzarnescu even cracked the top 20, but suffered an on-court injury in Montreal in August which kept her off the court until October, and she lost all three matches she played on her return. Buzarnescu is, worryingly for her team, 0-3 in 2019, but her losses to Belinda Bencic in Hobart and Venus Williams in Melbourne were close three-setters and the crafty veteran will feel like she has nothing to lose taking on Pliskova. Still, the big-serving Czech has an opportunity to really set the tone for this tie with a disciplined, aggressive display of first-strike tennis and that's what we should expect her to do.

Katerina Siniakova (CZE) vs Simona Halep (ROU), to follow
World no. 3 Simona Halep, the highest-ranked player taking part in a Fed Cup tie this weekend, faces what could be a tricky match against an opponent who's been difficult for her in the past as she takes on Katerina Siniakova.

Katerina Siniakova played a key role for the Czech Republic in the 2018 final (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Halep has won her last five Fed Cup singles rubbers and is one of those players who performs well for her team even in the pressure-cooker environment of a Fed Cup tie. She may have surrendered her world no. 1 ranking to Naomi Osaka after failing to defend her Australian Open runner-up points, but nevertheless the Romanian can feel good about the way January went for her; she came in with low expectations after her 2018 season was truncated by a back injury which kept her out of the WTA Finals Singapore, was handed a nightmare draw at the Australian Open but impressed in battling victories over Kaia Kanepi, Sofia Kenin and Venus Williams before losing to Serena Williams in the last 16. In recent days, Halep has confirmed Thierry van Cleemput (former coach of David Goffin) as her new coach and everything looks good for the French Open champion heading into February.

22-year-old Katerina Siniakova became a Fed Cup heroine when she was called upon to play a crucial role in the 2018 final against the USA and rose to the occasion, winning singles rubbers against Alison Riske and Sofia Kenin. The world no. 44 had a strong end to 2018, with quarterfinal appearances in Beijing and Wuhan before the aforementioned final, but is 0-4 in main-draw singles matches so far in 2019, with a straight-sets defeat to qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure on the indoor hard courts of St Petersburg particularly unimpressive. 

However, Siniakova should lift her game for Fed Cup, and she's not only pushed but beaten Halep before, ousting the Romanian from Shenzhen in 2017 - although a rematch in the 2018 final didn't end so well for her, the Czech suffering a 1-6, 6-2, 0-6 defeat. 

I thought Halep played very well in Melbourne, and particularly impressed when it came to consistently going for her shots and taking the initiative in the points - something that will serve her well against the erratic Siniakova. Like Pliskova, Halep should live up to her position as leader of the team and stamp her authority on this match to remind the Czechs that, Fed Cup powerhouse though they might be, they're in for a battle this weekend in Ostrava.


TIE INFORMATION

Location: Ostrava, Czech Republic

Venue: Ostravar Arena

Surface: Indoor hard courts

Czech Republic: Karolina Pliskova, Katerina Siniakova, Marketa Vondrousova, Barbora Krejcikova, Petr Pala (captain)

Romania: Simona Halep, Mihaela Buzarnescu, Irina-Camelia Begu, Ana Bogdan, Monica Niculescu, Florin Segarceanu (captain)


TIE PREVIEW 

The Czech Republic have transformed themselves into a real Fed Cup powerhouse over the past decade, winning the title in six of the past eight years including in 2018 when they defeated the USA in the final.

Several key players are missing from Petr Pala's side for this first-round tie against Romania, including recent Australian Open finalist and world no. 2 Petra Kvitova, and Fed Cup stalwart Barbora Strycova, who decided to retire from representing her country after years of sterling service. But such is the depth of the Czech Republic's bench that their side still looks extremely strong, led by world no. 5 Karolina Pliskova, who has been on strong form already in 2019 after winning the Brisbane International and reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open. Pliskova is backed up by world no. 44 Katerina Siniakova, who scored two huge singles wins for the Czech Republic in the 2018 final; talented Marketa Vondrousova; and top doubles player Barbora Krejcikova.

World no. 3 Simona Halep, who owns a 16-5 win-loss record in Fed Cup singles and has won her last five singles rubbers, leads the visiting Romanian side and will be feeling confident after she battled her way through three nightmare rounds at the Australian Open despite imperfect preparation before suffering a narrow loss to Serena Williams in the last 16. Halep has able support in the form of Mihaela Buzarnescu, who shot up the rankings and broke into the top 20 in 2018 and might have done more had she not suffered an unlucky ankle injury in Montreal; and veterans Irina-Camelia Begu and the maddening Monica Niculescu.

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Czech Republic vs Romania Fed Cup live streaming, preview and tips: Halep leads Romania to dramatic 3-2 win over defending champions

Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova and Katerina Siniakova vs Mihaela Buzarnescu Fed Cup World Group live streaming, previews and predictions - Halep has a 6-2 head-to-head against Pliskova but lost their only previous Fed Cup encounter

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