Paris: Karolina Pliskova and Lucie Hradecka secured the Czech Republic a fifth Fed Cup final appearance in six years with victory in the deciding doubles against Switzerland yesterday.
Waiting for the defending champions in the November 12-13 final will be France, who edged the Netherlands in their semi-final in Trelaze. The semi-final in Lucerne, level at 1-1 overnight, went down to the wire after Pliskova’s comfortable win over Timea Bacsinszky before a stunning comeback from Viktorija Golubic against Barbora Strycova.
But Switzerland’s dream of making their first final since 1998 was ended when Pliskova and Hradecka despatched Golubic and Martina Hingis 6-2, 6-2 to take the tie 3-2.
Golubic, ranked 129 in the world, had kept the Swiss in the hunt with two singles wins.
France, all square with the Dutch at 1-1 after Saturday’s singles, progressed in similar fashion to make their first finals since 2005.
Skippered by Amelie Mauresmo the French went into the tie on claycourt against surprise semi-finalists the Netherlands as clear favourites.
But the Dutch took a 2-1 lead courtesy of Kiki Bertens’ 7-5, 6-4 win over Kristina Mladenovic in Sunday’s opening match.
Caroline Garcia defeated Arantxa Rus 6-3, 6-4 to get the hosts back level, and then Garcia teamed up with Kristina Maldenovic in the concluding doubles against Bertens and Richel Hogenkamp to clinch the tie 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. France have reached their first final since 2005.
The Netherlands were unbeaten since 2013 despite a team full of lower-ranked players, beating Australia last year to reach the World Group and stunning Russia in the first round.
Four-times champions Italy were relegated from the World Group for the first time in 18 years after losing 4-0 in a playoff with Spain who return to the elite after a two-year absence.
Belarus upset Russia 3-1 in their World Group playoff, meaning the Russians are also relegated from the top group for the first time in 18 years.