The Hindu

Sharapova hits back to make it 1-1

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PRAGUE: Maria Sharapova won her first-ever meeting with Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-4 to hit back for Russia in the Fed Cup final against holder Czech Republic in Prague on Saturday.

Earlier, World No. 6 Petra Kvitova came back from a set down to beat 28th-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchen­kova on the hardcourt of the sold-out O2 Arena 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 as the champion took a 1-0 lead.

Big hitters Sharapova, the World No. 4, and 11th-ranked Pliskova traded breaks halfway through the first set but the Russian, playing only her fifth Fed Cup tie, added another in game eight to outpower her rival.

The 23-year-old Pliskova broke Sharapova early in the second set, but Sharapova, 28, broke back twice to win the set as Pliskova squandered three break points in game eight.

“I was nervous throughout the whole match and made some errors at inappropri­ate times but overall I’m just really happy that I could win,” said Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner.

“I didn’t serve my best and that’s something that I’ll definitely need to improve for tomorrow,” added Sharapova, who collected nine double faults in the rubber.

Pliskova blamed her loss on a poor first serve. “She goes after the second immediatel­y and creates pressure and then it’s terribly hard,” she said.

“I could have played better, I had my chances.”

The first rubber got underway following a minute’s silence for the victims of Friday’s Paris terror attacks. Kvitova got off to a stumbling start, piling up unforced errors and serving poorly.

Pavlyuchen­kova broke twice to take the first set in just 34 minutes. “I was very nervous from the start, in fact throughout the first set,” said Kvitova.

The result: Czech Republic 1, Russia 1 (Petra Kvitova bt Anastasia Pavlyuchen­kova 2-6, 6-1, 6-1; Karolina Pliskova lost to Maria Sharapova 3-6, 4-6.

 ??  ?? FLAWLESS:
Russia's Maria Sharapova overpowere­d Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in straight sets.
— PHOTO: REUTERS
FLAWLESS: Russia's Maria Sharapova overpowere­d Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in straight sets. — PHOTO: REUTERS

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