Karolina Pliskova won her singles rubber and then teamed up with Barbora Strycova to take the decisive doubles and lead the Czech Republic to a successful defence of their Fed Cup title, and their fourth in five years, on Sunday.
Pliskova and Strycova beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 at Prague’s hard-court O2 Arena. The Czechs won their ninth title overall, including five as Czechoslovakia, which went on to be split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.
Russia have won four titles from 11 final ties, including those they played as the former Soviet Union.
“It’s the first experience for me in the Fed Cup so I’m really happy (about) how we made it and we both played really good,” said Pliskova, playing only her second Fed Cup tie. “I’m speechless, it was unbelievable,” added Strycova.
Russian captain Anastasia Myskina, a former French Open champion, did not conceal her disappointment. “We tried, we did our best, I’m proud of my girls, I think they played good,” she said.
World number 11 Pliskova was the star of the day after she saw off 28th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-4 in Sunday’s second singles rubber.
In the day’s opener, Maria Sharapova, the world number four, came back from a set down to edge sixth-ranked Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Propelled by Pliskova’s success in the singles, the Czech doubles pair started in high spirits but their early break was not enough as the Russians broke twice to take the first set.
But the hosts declined to bow out early and dominated the second set, despite a late break by the Russians. They broke Vesnina’s serve in game one of the final set and then did it again six games later to lift the trophy.
In Sunday’s second singles rubber, the hard-hitting Pliskova, 23, took the first set with a single break, capitalising on aggressive play against the 24-year-old Pavlyuchenkova. Both traded breaks in the opening games of set two and Pliskova then struck again in the ninth game to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
“It’s definitely one of the biggest wins in my career,” beamed Pliskova. “I was trying to focus on my serve and it was working today so I’m really happy for that.”
Earlier, a rampant Kvitova forced out two breaks in the first set, keeping Sharapova under constant pressure with daring returns. “Petra played unbelievable in the first set, she was so aggressive, hitting really deep,” said 28-year-old Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner.
Playing only her fifth Fed Cup tie, Sharapova regained momentum in an epic second set as the 25-year-old Kvitova seemed to lose concentration, giving away two breaks against one for Sharapova. “I felt like I started getting my feet in the match because in the first set she was just playing too well and there was not much I could do,” said Sharapova.
Kvitova said, “The second set could go either way and unfortunately it didn’t go mine.”
In the final set, Sharapova broke twice while Kvitova piled up the errors. “In the third set I just felt like I was the fresher one, like I could play another three hours, and that mentality really helped me,” said Sharapova.
On Saturday, Sharapova won her first ever meeting with Pliskova 6-3, 6-4 to level 1-1 after Kvitova had come back from a set down to beat Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the opener.