Czechs re­tain Fed Cup ti­tle

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Czech Repub­lic re­tained its Fed Cup ti­tle yes­ter­day af­ter Barbora Strycova and Karolina Pliskova de­feated their French op­po­nents in the de­ci­sive dou­bles match.

Strycova and Pliskova beat Caro­line Gar­cia and Kristina Mlade­n­ovic 7-5, 7-5 to se­cure a 3-2 win for the Czechs in the fi­nal on the in­door hard court at Rhenus Sport Arena.

The Czechs won a fifth ti­tle in six years and be­came the first team to win three con­sec­u­tive Fed Cups since Spain from 1993-95.

Ear­lier sub­sti­tute Barbora Strycova de­feated Al­ize Cor­net 6-2, 7-6 (4) to keep de­fend­ing cham­pion Czech Repub­lic alive in the Fed Cup fi­nal.

Strycova re­placed two-time Wim­ble­don win­ner Pe­tra Kvi­tova at the last minute. Cor­net, also a sub­sti­tute in the French team, played in place of Kristina Mlade­n­ovic, who strug­gled phys­i­cally in her marathon loss to Karolina Pliskova on Fri­day.

Caro­line Gar­cia ear­lier gave France a 2-1 lead with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Pliskova.

Strycova over­pow­ered Cor­net in the first set. Her ri­val of­fered more re­sis­tance in the sec­ond and broke for a 2-0 lead but was hin­dered by nerves in the sev­enth game. Cor­net hit a se­ries of un­forced er­rors, al­low­ing Strycova to break back with a fore­hand vol­ley at the con­clu- sion of a well-con­structed point.

The Czech was more cre­ative and pre­cise to­ward the end, mix­ing deep ground­strokes, slices and rushes to the net to un­set­tle Cor­net. But Strycova cracked twice while serv­ing for the match on the in­door hard court at Rhenus Sport Arena. Strycova held her nerve in the tiebreaker and con­verted her first match point with an over­head shot.

Ear­lier, Gar­cia won her sec­ond match of the week­end with a fine dis­play of ag­gres­sive ten­nis. She broke de­ci­sively in the eighth game of the third set with a su­perb fore­hand re­turn af­ter Pliskova hit two un­forced er­rors.

Gar­cia helped the hosts level at 1-1 with the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons on Fri­day by win­ning her first match against Kvi­tova.

Gar­cia got off to a strong start Sun­day and hit a su­perb fore­hand re­turn to break Pliskova for a 3-1 lead. The one break was enough to seal the first set but Pliskova clawed her way back. She broke for a 2-0 lead and held all her ser­vice games with ease to level at a set each.

But the sixth-ranked Czech was the first to stum­ble in the de­cider. Serv­ing at 4-3 down, Pliskova sent a fore­hand long and handed Gar­cia a break point with a back­hand buried in the mid­dle of the net. Gar­cia seized her chance with an­other siz­zling fore­hand that her op­po­nent could not re­turn and held to close out the match.

"It was re­ally a very good match," Gar­cia said. "We knew be­fore this week­end that we would need to give ev­ery­thing to stand a chance. But there is still a very long way to go."

Czech Repub­lic team cap­tain Petr Pala, cen­ter, and play­ers hold the tro­phy af­ter their vic­tory against France, dur­ing the Fed Cup fi­nal in Stras­bourg

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