What a weekend of team tennis as the final of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas took centre stage in Prague and for the first time since 2011, when the Czech Republic beat Russia in Moscow, the biggest women’s team sporting event went down the to the wire. The doubles rubber decided the outcome between the same two nations, titleholders the Czech Republic and Russia and just like four years ago it was a case of Czech mate!
Going into the second day of the final the two nations were square after the first day’s two singles matches when the respective No.1’s, Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova, scored wins. However, it was the first reverse singles that had all the attention and that was the match between Kvitova and Sharapova.
Sharapova had an overall 6-4 advantage but she had lost the last two occasions to Kvitova, both times at the season-ending BNP Paribas WTA Finals, two weeks before and twelve months previously.
For almost two sets it looked as if Kvitova was going to make it three in a row. She had won the first set and had chances in the second set but Sharapova had other ideas; she showed yet again no matter how frustrating she may feel about some of her shot-making, you do not dismiss the Russian. Sharapova went on to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
“It’s never over for me until I play the last point,” Sharapova said. “I don’t care who I’m playing against. The team supported me so well today. This is one of the few competitions where you’re not just playing for yourself and I really felt like I would look over to them and every time they were standing up. That’s the meaning of this event.”
“I think both of them are difficult but a little bit different,” Kvitova said. “Today when I’m playing in front of the full crowd it’s a little bit more disappointing, but that’s tennis and I know I gave everything today.”
With Sharapova’s win the pressure was on Karolina Pliskova. She has never been in such a situation before and this was now the biggest match of her career. She had to win to keep the final alive. The crowd got behind her and even though she was a little nervous, she used that energy in a positive manner against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and in doing so forced it to the decider 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s definitely one of the biggest wins in my career,” Pliskova said. “I’ve never played Fed Cup in front of my home crowd and it was amazing atmosphere here and I really enjoyed the match so I’m really happy that I won.”
So it was down to the doubles. Lucie Safarova had originally nominated alongside Barbora Strycova but Safarova had not been physically fit and was struggling so Pliskova replaced her. Across the net a change was also made. Pavlyuchenko replaced Ekaterina Makarova who has been injured and with Anastasia was Elena Vesnina.
It was a fabulous double match. The Russians took the first set and had chances in the second set but with the crowd lifted Pliskova and Strycova and they forced it to a decider.
The third could have gone either way but the Czechs won the points that mattered. They got the break and eventually the Cup stayed in Czech hands, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
This marks the ninth time overall and the fourth time in five years that the Czech Republic had captured the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas.