Shocking surprises and unexpected results – the Fed Cup final between the Czech Republic and France this weekend had drama galore except that the eventual outcome remained the same. The Czech girls extended their incredible Fed Cup legacy, winning their fifth title in six years with a narrow 3-2 scoreline that left the French team and their vociferous supporters at the Rhenus Sport Arena in Strasbourg stunned.
Overall, this was the 10th crown for the winners with their first five wins coming in 1975, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1988. This latest triumph also enabled them to become the first team to win for three consecutive years since Spain did it in 1993-95.
The very first match of this tie set the tone for what was to follow in the rest of this contest. World No. 6 Karolina Pliskova battled one of her best Tour buddies Kristina Mladenovic for 3 hours 48 minutes to claim an unbelievable 6-3, 4-6, 16-14 victory that put the visitors ahead 1-0. That very match entered the record books with the 30-game set being the longest third set ever in a Fed Cup final.
It apparently opened the door for an easy ride to the title for the visitors except that the proceedings refused to follow the script. Czech Republic’s talismanic Petra Kvitova had arrived for this tie on the back of a confidence-boosting title win at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai. Few expected her to stutter and stumble after that but that is exactly what happened.
The ever-reliable Fed Cup heroine slumped to a 6(6)-7, 3-6 defeat to Caroline Garcia in an absolutely error-riddled show that was nowhere near the performance she put up in China just a few days before.
The magic was not over from the 23rd ranked Garcia’s racquet after that huge upset. She returned the next day to produce yet another astonishing show to upstage the US Open runner-up Pliskova, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and put France within sniffing distance of the much-coveted win.
Strycova leads the Czech team to an improbable victory
Fighting for one’s country always brings forth extra courage and spirit which is why countless heroes are born in every such international team competition. It was the Czech’s Barbora Strycova who took on that role this time.
The World No. 20 first brightened up the visitors’ fading chances by notching up a 6-2, 7-6(4) win over Alize Cornet in the fourth rubber. But it was the subsequent doubles rubber which became the biggest talking point of this entire tie.
Strycova along with Pliskova faced the reigning French Open champions Garcia and Mladenovic where the latter were undoubtedly the overwhelming favourites at home. Nerves, however, got the better of them as an inspired Pliskova and Strycova put up a gutsy show to defuse the French challenge for a 7-5, 7-5 win.
Pliskova displayed some exceptional touches at the net that robbed the French of any chance they had. Her crouching drop volley to earn the decisive break in the eleventh game of the second set dashed all hopes of the hosts and deservedly has been highlighted as the ‘Shot of the Day’ by Fed Cup twitter.
Understandably, Strycova was over the moon after the win. She called it ‘unbelievable’ after steering her team from out of the pits to an improbable victory.
“Unbelievable. We don’t have words yet, we are going to celebrate. The feeling is something so special, even if it’s our fifth title. It’s really unbelievable,” said the 30-year-old.