PARIS (AFP) – Inga Swietec marked his first match as world number one with an 18th straight win as he led Poland closer to the Billie Jean King Cup final on Friday.
The 20-year-old beat 123rd-ranked Mihela Buzarnescu 6-1, 6-0 in just 55 minutes after five service breaks as the Poles took a 2-0 lead over Romania in their qualifier in Radom.
Sweetek entered the qualifiers with 17 consecutive wins in Doha, Indian Wells and Miami.
Magda Lynette first defeated a challenge from the experienced Irina-Kamelia Begu 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.
US Open champion Emma Radukanu helped Britain to a 1-1 draw against 11-time champions Czech Republic.
Radukanu, playing on clay courts for the first time as a professional, won in just two hours.
The 19-year-old showed no ill effects from losing his toenail in training on the demanding surface earlier this week.
The Czech team, playing without two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and former world number one Karolina Pliskova, took a 1-0 lead thanks to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Harriet Dart, Marka Vondrosova.
Kazakhstan also has a leg up in the final after a surprising 2-0 lead over Germany in Nur-Sultan.
Yulia Putintseva beat Angelique Kerber 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to register a national record 15th singles win in the rebranded Fed Cup tournament.
“It’s always tough for me to play the first matches of a clay court season. It’s not my favorite surface,” said Kerber, a three-time major winner.
“I played well in the first set but then she came back and was playing better and better.”
Elena Rybakina beat Laura Siegmund 6-1, 6-0 as the Kazakhs needed just one point from Saturday’s doubles and two reverse singles to win.
Altogether seven qualifiers are being played on Friday and Saturday.
The winners will join Switzerland, Australia, Belgium and Slovakia in the final later this year.
Both defending champions Russia and Belarus have been expelled from the Billie Jean King Cup due to the invasion of Ukraine.
© 2022 AFP