Sharapova helps Russia level 1-1 with Czech Republic in Fed Cup final
Former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova came to the rescue of the Russian team to level 1-1 with defending champions Czech Republic at the end of Day 1 of the Fed Cup final at the O2 Arena in the Czech cpital of Prague on Saturday. The World No. 4 beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-4 to keep the four-time champions still in the hunt.
Earlier, Czech No. 1 Petra Kvitova brought her fighting prowess to the fore to overcome a first-set deficit and edge past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the first singles rubber.
The two teams will now play the reverse singles on Sunday, which will be followed by the doubles match if needed.
The first of the reverse singles will be the much-awaited contest between heavyweights Kvitova and Sharapova. The Czech had upset the five-time major champion in their very last meeting just two weeks ago at the WTA Finals in Singapore.
In the second reverse singles, Pliskova will take on Pavlyuchenkova. The doubles match is set to be played between Russia’s multiple Grand Slam-winning pair of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina and the Czech team of Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova.
On the fast indoor hardcourts of the O2 Arena, Sharapova struggled with her serve for major parts of the match, committing as many as nine double faults. But her superb returns made up for it as she broke her 23-year-old opponent twice to clinch the opening set 6-3.
The Czech, buoyed by the 13,000 spectators and their vociferous chants, broke Sharapova early in the second set to go up 2-0. But her joy was short-lived as her serve let her down. The former no. 1, who was playing her first ever Fed Cup final, broke twice more to wrap up the match in 1 hour and 29 minutes.
Earlier, the first rubber began after a minute silence was observed for the victims of the devastating attacks in Paris. Two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova took the court against Russia’s Pavlyuchenkova but she looked far from the talisman who had delivered the Czech Republic three Fed Cup wins in the last four years.
The Russian, who ended her 2015 season with a title indoors, looked thoroughly comfortable on the surface and secured two breaks of serve to surge to a 6-2 lead. Kvitova, who wasted a handful of break point opportunities, was finally able to make the breakthrough in the second game of the second set for a 2-0 advantage.
She broke again and finally found her confidence back as she levelled the match. In the decider, Kvitova’s ferocious lefty forehands came alive as she thundered seven winners off that wing. With a total of 27 winners, the World No. 6 closed out the match in 1 hour and 44 minutes.Modified 20 Dec 2019, 06:18 IST