Garcia puts France back on track in Fed Cup final
Caroline Garcia ensured a suspenseful second day in the Fed Cup final by downing two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 7-6 (6) 6-3 to draw France level with the defending champion Czech Republic 1-1.
Garcia's victory restored some hope in the French camp after sixth-ranked Karolina Pliskova won a marathon third set against Kristina Mladenovic to give the Czechs the first point yesterday.
The Czechs are bidding for a fifth title in six years this weekend. They won the most recent tie between them in the semifinals last year, and are favorites to become the first team to win three consecutive Fed Cups since Spain from 1993-95.
After Kvitova came back from 24 down in the opener, Garcia — the No. 1 French player — prevailed in the tiebreaker by taking risks. She closed out the set on her second chance with a crosscourt backhand that Kvitova could not return.
Garcia was broken at the start of the second set but made the most of Kvitova's unforced errors to claim four consecutive games. Kvitova saved a match point with a forehand winner in the ninth game and Garcia converted her second with a shot on the baseline that surprised her Czech rival.
"Caro played a fantastic match, I had never seen her play at such a high level," France captain Amelie Maursemo said. "Tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day."
Today features the reverse singles, and finishes with doubles, when Alize Cornet and Pauline Parmentier face Czechs Barbora Strycova and Lucie Hradecka.
Depending on how the tie goes, Mauresmo could send out Garcia and Mladenovic in the doubles. They won the French Open, and came from a set down to win the decisive rubber against the Netherlands in the semifinals.
In the first match defending champion Czech Republic took a 1-0 lead over France in the Fed Cup after sixth-ranked Karolina Pliskova won a marathon third set against Kristina Mladenovic.
Pliskova recovered from a second-set blip to beat Mladenovic 63, 4-6, 16-14 after the French player came close to achieving a stunning comeback on the indoor hardcourt at Rhenus Sport arena.
Pliskova used her deep groundstrokes to take control of the match at first but showed her nerves midway through the second set, allowing Mladenovic back into the match with a series of mistakes.
Mladenovic then rallied from 52 down in the decider and saved two match points with two big serves, including an ace, to level at 9-9. The Frenchwoman cracked on her serve in the 30th game when she was broken at love.
Mladenovic got off to a nervous start and was broken on her first service game of the match after hitting a double-fault. Pliskova, on the other hand, looked comfortable and quickly found her range with big forehand winners and deep returns.
Positioned well inside the court, the U.S. Open runner-up dictated from the baseline but Mladenovic gradually found her rhythm and put her opponent under pressure in the sixth game with a series of good returns. Mladenovic converted her third chance when Pliskova double-faulted.
The change in momentum did not last long, though, as Pliskova capitalized on her opponent's poor second serve to break in the next game. Mladenovic saved one set point at 5-3 but another double fault gifted Pliskova the opener.
The trend continued early in the second set as the Czech displayed her vast array of shots to keep Mladenovic at bay.
But Pliskova put herself into trouble when she double-faulted four times in the seventh game to drop her serve and bring Mladenovic back in the match.
Once again the big-hitting Mladenovic failed to hold when it mattered and Pliskova broke back before being undone by her mistakes in the next game. This time, Mladenovic did not let her nerves get the better of her, firing a deep forehand winner on her first set point to level.
Pliskova broke in the sixth game of the decider but failed to hold when she served for the match at 5-3. With the set at 9-9, Mladenovic received medical treatment at the changeover and returned on court with her left thigh bandaged. She did not seem hampered in her moves afterward, getting involved in long rallies although she tried to shorten points at the net.
Pliskova finally won — taking the 30th game with ease — in a match that lasted 3 hours, 48 minutes.