By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Venus Williams put the United States into the Fed Cup World Group semi-finals with a straight sets victory over Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands that gave the reigning champions an insurmountable 3-0 lead in their first-round tie on Sunday.
Williams’s 7-5 6-1 victory on the indoor hard court in Asheville, North Carolina, means the United States will travel to France, who beat Belgium earlier on Sunday, for the April 21-22 semi-finals.
Williams had to fight off a determined Hogenkamp in the first set but dominated throughout the second when her 108th-ranked opponent, who spent nearly three hours on the court in Saturday’s loss to CoCo Vandeweghe, showed little resistance.
“Honestly, I like to think that CoCo wore her (Hogenkamp) down some yesterday,” said Williams, who then took to the court with younger sister Serena for a doubles dead rubber.
“It gave me an opportunity to be able to close it out for the USA. It gave me a lot of pressure for me to close it out and a lot of pressure for her to stay in and I just handled it a little better.”
In Prague, Petra Kvitova sent the Czech Republic into their 10th consecutive semi-final when she clinched the first round tie against Switzerland with a 6-2 6-4 win over Belinda Bencic in the third rubber.
For Kvitova, who got the ball rolling for the Czechs on Saturday with a hard-fought win over Viktorija Golubic, this weekend marked her return to the Fed Cup for the first time since being injured in a knife attack at her home in 2016.
“I was more calm than yesterday,” said Kvitova. “I think yesterday the crowd and the people in here threw me and I had more emotions than I did today.
“I knew against Belinda I had to be ready for every point because she’s in pretty good form. We were pretty tight in the first few games of each set and then when I got the break I felt a little bit better.”
Elsewhere, Kristina Mladenovic and Amandine Hesse beat Kirsten Flipkens and Elise Mertens in the deciding doubles rubber to put hosts France through to the semi-finals for the third time in four years.
In Minsk, Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Tatjana Maria beat Lidziya Marozava and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the deciding doubles rubber to put twice champions Germany into the semis for the first time since 2015.
Germany will next face the Czech Republic.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)