PARIS: Maria Sharapova made a rare but decisive Fed Cup appearance on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to help Russia reach the semifinals, where they will face Germany.
Champions Czech Republic stormed into the last four with a whitewash in Canada and will next face surprise package France, who stunned Italy in Genoa.
Former world number one Sharapova defeated Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 7-5 to give her country an unassailable 3-0 lead in Krakow.
French Open champion Sharapova was playing just her fourth Fed Cup tie since her 2008 debut, but in order to make the Olympics next year all players have to make themselves available for the annual women’s team tournament.
“It is a very important win for me,” said Sharapova, who has often been criticised for not playing enough Fed Cup matches.
“Playing for the national team there is always added pressure.”
Sharapova had already beaten Urszula Radwanska in straight sets on Saturday, while veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova surprised Urszula’s sister Agnieszka in three sets.
Doubles pairing Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Vitaliya Diachenko made it 4-0 later on Sunday as they beat Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Alicja Rosolska 6-4, 6-4.
Germany qualified for a last four trip to Russia on April 18-19 after Andrea Petkovic won her second successive gruelling three-set marathon.
Petkovic dug deep to seal a 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 win over Jarmila Gajdosova as Australia were overcome 3-1 in Stuttgart.
Just 24 hours earlier, Petkovic defeated Samantha Stosur 12-10 in the third set after three hours, 13 minutes on court.