Paris: Russia and Italy, who have won eight of the last 12 Fed Cup titles, crashed out of this year’s tournament yesterday as defending champions Czech Republic survived to set-up a semi-final duel with Switzerland.
Russia, the champions in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008, suffered an embarrassing 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands in Moscow.
Italy, who were title winners in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2013, were also dumped out in the first round, going down 4-1 to France in Marseille.
But Switzerland, who have yet to win the Fed Cup, made the semi-finals with a thrilling 3-2 win over Germany in Leipzig thanks to teenager Belinda Bencic and Martina Hingis clinching the decisive doubles.
While the Netherlands and 2003 champions France meet in one semi-final in April, the Swiss will tackle the Czechs, who edged out Romania 3-2, in the other.
The Dutch, without a single player in the top 100, made the semi-finals for the first time since 1997 after Kiki Bertens defeated two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-4.
Kuznetsova, the world 17, had lost a four-hour marathon against Richel Hogenkamp on Saturday in the longest singles match ever played at a Fed Cup.
The 24-year-old Bertens, ranked at 106, took her Fed Cup singles record to 13 wins and one loss after the Dutch, 2-0 up overnight, claimed a famous win against a Russian team who had world number six Maria Sharapova warming the bench all weekend.
In Leipzig, 18-year-old Bencic won her third point of the weekend when she teamed up with 35-year-old Hingis to beat Germany’s Andrea Petkovic and Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-3, 6-2 in the deciding doubles.
The Swiss will be playing in their first semi-final since 1998.
Standing 1-1 overnight, Bencic downed Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 before Annika Beck celebrated her maiden singles appearance by seeing off Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-4 to make the tie 2-2.