SEVILLE, Spain - The Czech Republic secured the last semifinal berth in this year's Fed Cup when Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Andrea Hlavackova won the deciding doubles rubber of their rain-interrupted tie against Spain on Monday.
After rain washed out most of the opening two days, the clouds finally parted in southern Spain to allow an early morning start for the resumption of the second singles between Klara Zakopalova and María-Teresa Torró-Flor.
On Sunday, Spanish captain Conchita Martínez suggested that the drier conditions would suit her charges and her words looked particularly prescient when Torró-Flor came flying out of the blocks. Trailing 36 02 overnight, the young Spaniard, playing in the Fed Cup for just the second time, took the match by the scruff of the neck, controlling the baseline exchanges and reeling off the opening six games.
However, she was unable to carry this momentum into the decider as Zakopalova drew on all her experience to steady the ship before closing out a topsy-turvy 63 26 61 victory.
There was little time for celebration, as Zakopalova was back out on court an hour later to play the first of the reverse singles rubbers, against Carla Suárez Navarro. With her trademark forehand firing on all cylinders, the Czech carried on from where she left off against Torró-Flor, wrapping up the opening set in just 26 minutes.
Despite the chilly conditions, a healthy crowd huddled inside the Centro de Tenis Blas Infante and they played their part in helping the Spanish No.1 turn the contest around to win, 16 63 63. Spanish joy was short lived, though, as Lucie Safarova overcame Sílvia Soler-Espinosa, 46 61 63, to force the deciding doubles.
With the day's play entering a seventh hour and the shadows rapidly increasing in length, as Zahlavova Strycova and Hlavackova stepped on court to face Suárez Navarro and Soler-Espinosa, the tie looked in real danger of requiring a fourth day.
The doubles, like the rest of the tie, was a match of fine margins, but in the end it was Zahlavova Strycova and Hlavackova that prevailed, fending off two set points in the opener before eventually defeating Suárez Navarro and Soler-Espinosa, 76(7) 63, to book a date with defending champions Italy.