Czechs into Fed Cup semis
Fed Cup holders the Czech Republic got their bid for a title hat-trick off to a solid start with victory over Australia on Sunday.
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Already 2-0 up on Australia from Saturday's play in Ostrava, the Czechs wrapped up a first-round victory thanks to Petra Kvitova's narrow 2-6 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 victory over Sam Stosur in the first of the reverse singles rubbers.
Despite holding a match point at 5-4 in the second set, Stosur could not get over the winning line and immediately fell 5-0 down in the decider.
The former US Open champion did rally to get the set back on serve at 4-5 but then lost her own delivery again as the Czechs clinched the tie by moving into an unassailable 3-0 lead.
"It was my first really good match this year," Kvitova told the official Fed Cup website.
"When I lost the first set I didn't want to give up the match, I knew the next matches could be very tough, which is why I fought a lot, and the key was the tie-break in the second set."
Stosur said: "I don't think I did much wrong today.
"It was one that just slipped away. Petra played a very good match, in the second set I thought we were both playing very high quality and when it comes down to that, it was just a point here and a point there."
The Czechs will travel to Italy in April's semi-finals after the Italians came from 2-1 down to deny a brave USA side, one without star players Serena and Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens.
Varvara Lepchenko stunned claycourt expert Sara Errani 7-5 6-2 to put the visitors ahead in Rimini but Roberta Vinci then levelled the tie with a 6-2 4-6 6-1 victory over Jamie Hampton.
That meant a decisive doubles rubber which Vinci and Errani - the world's top-ranked doubles team - won, defeating Liezel Huber and Lepchenko 6-2 6-2.
The victory stretched Vinci's unbeaten record in Fed Cup doubles matches to 18.
In the bottom half of the draw, Russia also claimed a decisive doubles victory to see off Japan in Moscow.
Ayumi Morita's 6-4 6-1 win over Elena Vesnina - her second singles victory of the tie - put Japan 2-1 up but Ekaterina Makarova levelled affairs by crushing veteran Kimiko Date Krumm 6-1 6-1.
Morita teamed up with Misaki Doi for the doubles but could not claim a third win of the weekend, Vesina and Makarova proving too strong with a 6-2 6-2 success.
Russia will entertain the Slovak Republic in the last four after the Slovaks beat an under-strength Serbia.
Jana Cepelova's win the first of Sunday's reverse singles proved pivotal.
She beat Bojana Jovanovski 5-7 7-5 11-9 in an epic encounter to put the Slovaks 2-1 ahead.
Daniela Hantuchova then sealed the tie with a comfortable 6-3 6-2 win over Vesna Dolonc.
In World Group II, Spain won their first tie under the captaincy of Fed Cup legend Conchita Martinez. They beat Ukraine 3-1 to progress to April's World Group I play-offs.
But France's new era under the leadership of former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo did not start well.
They went down 3-1 at home to Germany and are now possible opponents for Great Britain in the World Group II play-offs.