A showdown between the two most prolific victors in event history closed out group play at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals on Friday, with 11-time champion Czech Republic edging past 18-time champion United States 2-1 to complete the semifinal lineup in Seville, Spain.
The seven-time Grand Slam-winning duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova clinched the tie to finish on top in the extremely competitive Group A (which also included defending champion Switzerland). The Czechs will face Canada in Saturday's semifinals.
For the second day in a row, Danielle Collins started the United States off with a win in the first singles match. Former World No.7 Collins dispatched Siniakova 6-3, 6-2 in 85 minutes. Collins never dropped serve in her singles victory.
But the Czechs leveled the tie when reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova stormed past 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-1, 6-1 in 70 minutes. Current World No.7 Vondrousova has won her last 13 matches in Billie Jean King Cup action.
The tie and the last semifinal spot was decided by the doubles match, where Collins and Taylor Townsend tried to upset former WTA Doubles World No.1 players Krejcikova and Siniakova.
After the Czechs took the opening set, the Americans came back strong in the second set, where Collins and Townsend led by a break on three separate occasions. But in each of those instances, Krejcikova and Siniakova broke back in the very next game en route to a 5-5 deadlock.
At 6-5, a Siniakova lob winner gave her and Krejcikova their first match point, which they converted after 1 hour and 25 minutes, sealing the 6-3, 7-5 win and a spot in the semis.
First semifinal for Slovenia: Earlier on Friday, Slovenia continued a stellar Billie Jean King Cup Finals debut by topping Group B to book a place in Saturday's semifinals, where they will play Italy.
The final Group B tie saw Kazakhstan top Slovenia 2-1, meaning all three teams in the group finished with a 1-1 record overall. All three teams were also level with a 3-3 set record.
However, Kaja Juvan's emphatic 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Anna Danilina, in which she dropped just five points in the second set, put her team in the driving seat.
Following that result, Tamara Zidansek needed to notch just eight games in her rubber against Yulia Putintseva to seal Slovenia's semifinal spot. She managed to do so, retiring at 2-6, 6-2 after Putintseva had leveled the match.
Slovenia's previous best Billie Jean King Cup performance was a quarterfinal showing in 2003.
Danilina and Zhibek Kulambayeva teamed up to give Kazakhstan a first win of the week, defeating Veronika Erjavec and Ela Milic 2-6, 6-4, [10-7].
France, Spain grab round-robin wins: With Italy already through to the last four, the final Group D tie between France and Germany was played for Nations Ranking points and pride. France came through 3-0 after Clara Burel defeated Jule Niemeier 6-4, 6-3, Varvara Gracheva notched a win after Tatjana Maria retired leading 3-0, and Caroline Garcia teamed up with Kristina Mladenovic to beat Niemeier and Laura Siegemund 5-7, 6-3, [10-1].
Spain also triumphed on Friday, winning the final round-robin tie of the week with an insurmountable 2-0 lead over Poland. Rebeka Masarova defeated Katarzyna Kawa 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, and Sara Sorribes Tormo bested Magda Linette 7-6(5), 6-3. But Spain will not contest the semifinals on home soil, as Canada already won Group C with a 2-0 record.