Halep And Garcia Hit All The Right Shots For Romania And France At Rouen

Simona Halep (photo: TF/Martin Sidorjak)

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

The Romanian fans who packed into Rouen’s Kindarena for the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinal matches gave Simona Halep a big boost in her opening rubber against France’s Kristina Mladenovic on Saturday.

Their cheers made a big difference as the Halep gave Romania an early 1-0 lead in the best-of-five tie being played on indoor red clay. The World No. 2 played off the crowd’s enthusiasm for the visiting nation – and it lifted her to an easy 6-3, 6-1 win.

The 60th-ranked Mladenovic came into her rubber against Halep owning a 3-2 head-to-head advantage. France’s team captain Julien Benneteau felt that she – and not No. 53 Pauline Parmentier or No. 55 Alizé Cornet – had the best shot of anyone on the French team to beat Halep.

It didn’t happen.

However, what did happen was in the second rubber of the afternoon, World No. 21 Caroline Garcia kept her team’s hopes alive going into Sunday with a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 30 Mihaela Buzarnescu.

In the first rubber, Halep outpointed Mladenovic 73-54 during the one hour and 40 minute match and her 19 winners (10 forehand and nine backhand) offset her 19 unforced errors. Her attacking play caused Mladenovic into committing 35 unforced errors.

During the post-match press conference, Halep was asked about her desire to win the Fed Cup this year for Romania. “Why this year particularly?” she asked, in answering FedCup.com’s question. “I’ve won a Grand Slam, I’ve been No. 1 in the world, and now the next goal is this. It’s an important moment. I want to give everything I can to do it. I don’t know if it’s harder to be the one playing the match, or sitting courtside watching my teammates. It’s so difficult to control my emotions wherever I am.

“But here in this arena, there are so many Romanians that I felt like we were at home. They were louder than the French. I didn’t expect so many to make the journey. It’s a big effort for them to come to watch us, and the energy the send us by being here is amazing. I want to thank them so much. We want to win it for them.”

In the second rubber, Garcia controlled her match against Buzarnescu and finished with a 62-49 advantage in points, which included hitting 13 winners. The Romanian No. 2 committed 32 unforced errors.

Sunday’s reverse singles begin with Halep facing Garcia and the Romanian enjoying a 5-1 head-to-head advantage. It will be followed by Mladenovic against Buzarnescu and, if necessary, the doubles rubber, which could decide who advances to November’s Fed Cup Final against the winner of the other semifinal between host Australia and Belarus.

With the France-Romania tie level at 1-all, Benneteau was asked about his plans for Sunday’s lineup. “There is no plan,” he said, quoted by the Fed Cup website. “I have a lot of people to talk to. I really don’t know what I will do yet. I will take some time to think and talk with my colleagues. But it’s not a group decision. It is my call. I will decide.”