No Williams sisters, no problem as U.S. target Fed Cup final return

PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE FED CUP TENNIS 2018 • USA, FRANCE, & MORE

Sloane Stephens fought hard to beat Pauline Parmentier 7-6 (3), 7-5 and give defending champion United States a 1-0 lead against France in the Fed Cup semifinals on Saturday.

"I'm very confident that we can make it to another final", Vandeweghe told fedcup.com ahead of the tie on indoor clay at Aix-en-Provence.

A blockbuster Fed Cup final was booked over the weekend when the defending-champion Americans went into France and took away a win on the red clay, and a dominant Czech Republic team did the same in Germany.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the world number 10, needed just over an hour for an emphatic 6-3, 6-2 win over 11th-ranked Julia Goerges.

Parmentier battled to save two set points and force a tie-break with an imposing forehand but she could not save a third as a whipping cross-court victor from Keys sealed the first set.

The U.S. will play the Czech Republic in the final. "I was getting nervous before this game", said Kvitova. USA captain Kathy Rinaldi then opted for Madison Keys in the final singles, and Keys delivered, clinching 7-6 (4), 6-4 on her least-favorite surface against Parmentier and sending the defending-champion Americans into the final.

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Keys took an early 3-2 lead in the second set, forcing an error with another solid service return on break point, but a pumped Parmentier quickly tied the set at 3-3 after a scintillating backhand passing shot, sending the French crowd and her captain, Yannick Noah, into a frenzy alongside her.

Last year, U.S. won the Fed Cup title for the 18th time - and the first time since 2000 - and extended its record for most Fed Cup titles. "I had to conquer my Fed Cup losing streak here and get another good win", Stephens said after serving up a bagel in her singles.

The Czech Republic will host the 10-11 November final having won five of the past seven Fed Cup titles.

But she was unable to repeat those heroics against Stephens who had given the Americans their first point when defeating Parmentier 7-6 (7/3), 7-5 in Saturday's opening match. Thanks to Keys' stubborn performance, US is bidding to win 7 consecutive Fed Cup ties for the first time since 1989-91, when the team sealed 14 straight wins.

"The girls did so well, both today and yesterday. We are very fortunate to have such a strong group and now we are looking forward to what is going to be a great final" said Kathy Rinaldi.

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