France, Czechs level de­spite Pliskova epic

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

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

Pliskova

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