Czechs retain Fed Cup title
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