Petr Pala picked the perfect players … the Czech Fed Cup captain Petr Pala led the celebration as his team claimed the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas for the third time in four years and for the eighth time overall when they defeated Germany who were playing their first final since 1992, 3-1.
The victory, in the world’s biggest annual team competition for women, has moved the Czechs into the second place, behind the USA, for the most wins, displacing Australia from that spot after 40 years.
“It was a perfect weekend,” grinned Pala, “and yes I have the perfect players.”
The key to the victory was on the first day. Most thought that the open day’s singles would be split. Petra Kvitova had defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4 with some extraordinary play. The Wimbledon champion dominated from all parts of the court and opened a 5-1 lead in the first set before Petkovic started to get some sort of rhythm.
But Kvitova, who made it clear that she was so nervous before the match that she didn’t sleep properly the night before nor could she eat anything before the match, kept drilling returns as the sold out crowd continued to keep her spirits on a high. The left hander was so precise with her shot-making that Petkovic was unstinting in her praise and said “that Petra would have beaten anyone in the world, the way she played”.
It was the second match that slipped through the German racquet strings. Angie Kerber had her chances against Lucie Safarova. Kerber had service breaks in both the sets they played – she was up 4-2 but each time Safarova managed to work her way back.
Kerber, who has a tendency to be quite an emotional player, was displaying those emotions on her sleeve and that played a part in her collapse. The end of the first set was a particular case in point when down set point, Kerber thought she had saved the point with a winner – nerves or over enthusiasm clouded her judgment and she called out encouragement to herself – in fact the ball was in play and she was penalized under the hindrance rule and the set went to Safarova.
Safarova eventually took the match 6-4, 6-4 and the Czechs now had one hand on the coveted trophy which was first played in 1963. The disappointment was that Kerber never really showed her capabilities in the match or the fact that she is a player firmly entrenched in the top 10 the last few years.
But if that was a disappointing performance then the reverse singles made up for things with interest. In one of the best matches of the 2014 women’s year Kerber all but redeemed her performance and while she did not win against Kvitova, she produced the type of tennis that should be a staple with her lefty game.
In a two hour 57 minute rollercoaster ride that would have put amusement park rollercoasters to shame, these two southpaws played a stunningly emotional match. Kvitova probably should have won the match in straight sets – she was up a set and a double break but Kerber clawed her way into the clash. The German won nine of ten games to level the match and lead 3-0 in the third; that stretched to 4-1.
The sold out stadium was loving every minute of this tennis and it was the type of tennis that epitomized Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. The passion was bubbling over.
Now it was Kvitova’s turn to rally. She was blocking out some nerves and touches of cramp as game after game began to fall her way. In the ninth game she broke Kerber’s serve and was serving for the Fed Cup.
The Czech fans got louder if that was at all possible. On match point four it was all over 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 … and the crowd went wild. The agony and the ecstasy was on full display. Kerber’s eyes red with sadness, Kvitova’s face beaming like a full moon.
“This match is at the top of the matches I have played this year,” she said.
Barbara Rittner the German captain said while she is sad not to win, this has been an amazing and new experience that they will learn from.
The second reverse singles was abandoned but the Germans salvaged some pride with the dead doubles as Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges defeated Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-4, 6-3.