Shara­pova beats Kvi­tova to put Rus­sia ahead

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Maria Shara­pova took Rus­sia within a point of win­ning the Fed Cup af­ter com­ing back from a set down to beat Pe­tra Kvi­tova in a tense fi­nal rub­ber in Prague yes­ter­day. In a clash of the teams’ num­ber-one play­ers, Shara­pova, the world num­ber four, edged sixth-ranked Kvi­tova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in two and a half hours. Karolina Pliskova is now due to take on Anas­ta­sia Pav­lyuchenkova in the day’s sec­ond rub­ber on the hard­court of Prague’s O2 Arena. Kvi­tova was 4-6 head-to-head with Shara­pova be­fore Sun­day’s rub­ber af­ter win­ning their pre­vi­ous en­counter in the semi-fi­nal of the WTA Tour Fi­nals last month when Shara­pova had come back from a four-month pause due to leg and arm prob­lems.

Ea­ger to please the home crowd, a ram­pant Kvi­tova broke Shara­pova in game one and kept her un­der con­stant pres­sure with dar­ing re­turns, tak­ing the set with an­other break as Shara­pova volleyed into the net. Play­ing only her fifth Fed Cup tie, Shara­pova, a five-time Grand Slam win­ner, re­gained mo­men­tum in the sec­ond set as the 25-year-old Kvi­tova seemed to lose con­cen­tra­tion.

The 28-year-old Shara­pova squan­dered two break points in game one but gladly ac­cepted the next of­fer four games later. Kvi­tova, the left-handed 2011 and 2014 Wim­ble­don cham­pion, im­me­di­ately broke her back to love, then averted two break points in an epic game seven be­fore los­ing her serve once more in game nine, which was enough for Shara­pova to win the set in over an hour.

In the de­cider, Shara­pova broke to go 3-2 on Kvi­tova’s two con­sec­u­tive cross­court back­hands into the net, then broke again for a rather com­fort­able win as Kvi­tova piled up er­rors.

On Satur­day, Kvi­tova came back from a set down to beat Pav­lyuchenkova 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 and Shara­pova then won her first ever meet­ing with Pliskova 6-3, 6-4 to put Rus­sia level. If the score is tied at 2-2 af­ter Sun­day’s sin­gles, Czechs Lu­cie Sa­farova and Barbora Strycova are due to play against Eka­te­rina Makarova and Elena Ves­nina in the fi­nal dou­bles rub­ber.

The Czechs are seek­ing their fourth ti­tle in five years and ninth over­all, in­clud­ing five as Cze­choslo­vakia which went on to split into the Czech Repub­lic and Slo­vakia in 1993. Rus­sia, who are 2-3 head-to-head with the Czechsin­clud­ing three ties be­tween the for­mer Cze­choslo­vakia and the Soviet Union-have won four ti­tles so far. — AFP

PRAGUE: PRAGUE: Maria Shara­pova of Rus­sia re­turns a ball to Pe­tra Kvi­tova of Czech Repub­lic dur­ing the In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion Fed Cup fi­nal match be­tween Czech Repub­lic and Rus­sia

yes­ter­day in Prague. — AFP

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