Czechs overwhelm Serbs to retain FedCup
PRAGUE - The Czech Republic won a second straight Fed Cup here on Sunday after Lucie Safarova gave them an unbeatable 3-1 lead over Serbia by thrashing Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-1.
Safarova, the world number 17, cruised past 22-ranked Jankovic in just an hour and 17 minutes, keeping the Serbian under constant pressure and earning 32 winners against Jankovic’s eight.
“It’s fantastic because it happened at home, in Prague, in front of our fans,” a triumphant Safarova said just after the game, improving her head to head record against Jankovic to two wins and five losses.
“It was one of the best games I’ve played in my career,” added the 25-year-old Safarova, who has a Serbian coach.
“It was unbelievable. She hardly missed one ball,” Czech team captain Petr Pala said.
Jankovic, who gave up five break points, was in tears as she told reporters she was playing with a back injury.
“I tried my best but it wasn’t enough. I had this problem for a couple of days and it got really bad,” said the 27-year-old Jankovic, who had treatment for several minutes between the two sets.
“I thought I could bring out the best but throughout the match it was getting worse and worse,” she added.
Ivanovic, the world number 12, needed an hour and 46 minutes to sink Kvitova, the world number eight, who was grappling with the effects of an illness.
Kvitova, sweating profusely and visibly weakened by a cold that forced her to pull out of the WTA Championship last week, lost her first rubber after an 11-game Fed Cup winning streak.
“I really started swinging from the beginning and it worked well for me,” said the 24-year-old Ivanovic, the Serbian number one, who had lost easily to Safarova on Saturday.
“I was a lot calmer today and I was sort of playing the game that I’ve been playing lately,” she added.
Kvitova managed to fight back at the end of the second set, when she broke Ivanovic’s serve for the first time and seemed on the verge of overwhelming her rival.
But Ivanovic broke back as she converted the third match point in the last game.
Kvitova, who is 22, refused to blame the loss on her illness.
“I felt better and I found it easier to breathe than on Saturday,” she said.
“But I lost a lot of strength yesterday and I was also drained emotionally.
“I lacked energy, the doctor gave me some sugar during a bathroom break but it didn’t help much,” said Kvitova, adding she did not sleep well.
But Serbia, playing their first final ever, never had a chance to come close as Safarova rallied to put the left-handed Czech team ahead.
“Petra was sick so she wasn’t at her best today, and I thought OK, it’s going to be my turn this time, and I’m really happy that I did it,” said Safarova.
On Saturday, Kvitova and Safarova eased past their rivals in straight sets to give the Czechs a 2-0 lead.
Safarova first beat Ivanovic 6-4, 6-3 on the hardcourt of Prague’s O2 Arena, and Kvitova then cruised past Jankovic 6-4, 6-1.
The doubles tie was cancelled as the jubilant Czechs poured onto the court to lift the cup.
Last year, the Czech Republic won the trophy after beating Russia in Moscow 3-2.
Before that, former Czechoslovakia, which split peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, won the Fed Cup five times between 1975 and 1988, including three straight wins in 1983-1985.
Czech fans are now setting eyes on a rare double as the country’s Davis Cup team will host holders Spain in the final in Prague on November 16-18.