France, Czechs level despite Pliskova epic
Cdefeated two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 to bring France level at 1-1 against the Czech Republic after the first day of the Fed Cup final yesterday.
Earlier, Karolina Pliskova beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 4-6, 16-14 in an epic rubber which lasted 12 minutes short of four hours as the Czechs, chasing a fifth title in six years, got off to a sensational start.
US Open runner-up Pliskova, the world No. 6, claimed victory having been 5-2 up in the decider and holding two match points at 9-8 in a match which shifted momentum at breathtaking speed.
Mladenovic, the world No. 42 and a close friend of her Czech rival since the pair were 10 years old, even served for the match herself at 12-11 but was unable to press home her advantage, with her challenge eventually undone by cramping.
The last set was the longest to be contested in a final in the history of the tournament.
“It was my longest ever match, but I still feel pretty fresh,” said 24-year-old Pliskova.
“She served really well so I had to wait for my chances. She found the big serve when she needed it.”
Mladenovic, who along with Garcia was recently reinstated in the French team following a suspension for bitter criticism of the country’s tennis federation at the Olympics, said her match had been draining.
“I have played long matches, but nothing compared to this,” she said.
“We played the equivalent of a men’s four or five-set match. It was very tough emotionally as well as physically.”
Czech skipper Petr Pala, who is bidding to become the most successful Fed Cup captain of all time, will face a major selection dilemma.
Despite a short turnaround Pliskova is due to play Garcia before Kvitova tackles Mladenovic in the second reverse singles.
Garcia and Mladenovic, the top-ranked pairing in the world and French Open champions, are then set to meet Lucie Hradecka and Barbora Strycova in what could be the decisive doubles. – AFP