Czech Republic wins doubles to beat United States 2-1 and reach Billie Jean King Cup semifinals

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Manu Fernandez

Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova returns the ball to US Sofia Kenin during their group stage tennis match at the Billie Jean King Cup finals at La Cartuja stadium in Seville, southern Spain, Spain, Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

SEVILLE – Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova sent the Czech Republic into the semifinals of the Billie Jean King Cup by beating American duo Danielle Collins and Taylor Townsend 6-3, 7-5 in their decisive doubles match on Friday.

Siniakova and Krejcikova completed a 2-1 comeback against the U.S. team on the indoor hard court in Seville to eliminate the Americans. The Czechs will face Canada in Saturday’s semifinals. Italy will face Slovenia in the other semifinal on the indoor hard court in Seville.

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“The U.S. were there, just waiting for the winning moment," said Czech captain Petr Pala. "It got to the wire and it could have gone either way, but we have a world-class doubles team.”

Krejcikova, the 2021 French Open champion, has also paired with Siniakova to win seven major doubles titles including this year’s Australian Open. Their champion pedigree showed in a dominant performance that included converting six of eight break points.

“I was very happy when we sealed the winning point today," Siniakova said, before talking about her continued success with Krejcikova.

“Everyone wants to beat us, and they are coming and trying to find things. I wouldn’t say our partnership is natural. You just need to work hard and we both like practicing and trying to improve ourselves, which is a big part."

Siniakova had started the day by losing to Collins, who won their opening singles match 6-3, 6-2 to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in a matchup to decide which teams would advance from Group A. But Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova pulled the Czechs level at 1-1 after she brushed aside Sofia Kenin 6-1, 6-1.

It was the final appearance for U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi, who will be replace by Linsday Davenport after having led the team for seven years, the fourth longest stint in team history.

“I loved my position as captain. I’ll miss it greatly,” Rinaldi said. “My saying was ‘What happens at Billie Jean King Cup stays at Billie Jean King Cup.’ So I’m not giving anything away.”

These are the the two most successful teams in the competition's history — the U.S. has the most titles with 18 and the Czechs the second most with 11. But the Czechs have now won their last three meetings with the Americans.

The Americans were without their two highest-ranked players. No. 3 Coco Gauff and No. 5 Jessica Pegula both played in the WTA finals in Mexico, which finished just before the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

The U.S. beat defending champion Switzerland in their group-phase opener on Thursday.

Canada advanced by winning its two matches over Spain and Poland in Group C earlier this week.

Slovenia made it to the semifinals for the first time despite losing 2-1 to Kazakhstan.

Slovenia finished atop Group B thanks to the best sets win-loss record of the three teams after Slovenia, Kazakhstan and Australia all finished with a 1-1 record and with three match victories each.

“It’s pretty unbelievable that we’re here,” said Slovenia’s Kaja Kuvan, whose 6-1, 6-0 win over Anna Danilina helped send her team through. “I don’t think any of us dreamed of the semifinal.”

France beat Germany 3-0 with both having already been eliminated in group D, where winner Italy advanced after beating both rivals earlier this week.

France’s Clara Burel beat Laura Siegemund 6-4, 6-3, while Germany’s Tatjana Maria had to retire from her match against Varvara Gracheva.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis