PARIS, Feb 10 (AFP): Former world number ones Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep won their opening rubbers as the Fed Cup clash between defending champions Czech Republic and Romania ended 1-1 on Saturday's opening day.
Pliskova, her country's top player in the absence of world number two Petra Kvitova, swept past Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-1, 6-4 before Halep disposed of Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-0 to bring Romania level.
The wins set up a mouthwatering clash between Pliskova, ranked five in the world, and number three Halep on the indoor hard courts of Ostrava on Sunday.
"I'm excited but I can't afford to get over-excited," said Australian Open semi-finalist Pliskova, who is hoping to inspire the Czechs to an 11th successive appearance in the last four of the Fed Cup.
Her caution is understandable as she trails Halep 6-2 in career meetings.
However, Pliskova won their last clash on clay in Madrid in 2018 as well as coming out on top in a 2016 Fed Cup World Group clash over three sets.
French Open champion Halep has already vowed to win a first Fed Cup for Romania before she retires, describing it as "the first thing on her bucket list now" having ticked off a maiden Grand Slam crown at Roland Garros last year.
In Liege, two-time champions France dominated Belgium for a 2-0 lead.
Top 20 player Caroline Garcia, returning to the French squad for the first time in two years after a bitter fall-out with teammates following the 2016 final, earned the opening point with a 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 6-2 win over Alison Van Uytvanck.
"There was a little stress, a little tension," admitted French number one Garcia.
"But it was the same thing the last time I came back to the team - nothing different, nothing more."
On the back of an 86-minute first set, Alize Cornet then made it 2-0 by seeing off Belgian number one Elise Mertens 7-6 (8/6), 6-2.
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