Czechs top Russia for 1st Fed Cup title since 1988
MOSCOW – The Czech Republic won its first Fed Cup title in 23 years on Sunday after Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke beat Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-2 in the decisive doubles match to secure a 3-2 win over Russia in the final.
It was the sixth title in the competition for the Czechs but their first since 1988, when it competed as Czechoslovakia and beat the Soviet Union 2-1 in the final.
The victory also caps a breakthrough season for second-ranked Petra Kvitova, who won both of her singles matches for the Czechs. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova then beat No. 2 Lucie Safarova to pull Russia even and set up the decisive doubles.
"Petra won two points, but we needed one more," Czech captain Petr Pala said. "I'm glad we've managed to (get) the third one. We all won it because victory is made of small pieces you have to put together. It's team work."
Russia captain Shamil Tarpischev also praised Kvitova.
"The Czechs won thanks to Kvitova's superb play," Tarpischev said. "She was just great."
The Russian pair broke early for a 4-2 lead, but the Czechs won four consecutive games to take the first set and then jumped to a 5-2 lead in the second. The Russians saved three match points on Vesnina's serve before she sent a shot wide on the fourth.
"The Czechs played unbelievably well, they dominated the game and left us no chance," Vesnina said. "It was tough to get something going today, but we fought until the very end."
Earlier on Sunday, Kvitova rallied to beat Kuznetsova 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Pavlyuchenkova then replaced Kirilenko and kept the Russians' hopes alive by beating Safarova 6-2, 6-4.
Pavlyuchenkova won five consecutive games in the first set and broke decisively in the fifth game of the second to serve out the match at love, closing it with an ace.
Pavlyuchenkova also helped Russia get out of the first round against France in February, when she won the first reverse singles to start Russia's comeback from a 2-0 hole.
In their first ever meeting, Kvitova and Kuznetsova traded breaks three times in the first set before the Czech, trailing 5-4 on her serve in the 10th game, saved a set point before netting a backhand to go 1-0 down in the match.
But the Wimbledon champion won five consecutive games in the second set and, trailing 3-0 in the decider, won six straight games and closed the match with a backhand winner on her second match point.
"I wasn't playing my tennis in the first set, making too many mistakes, while Svetlana moved and returned very well," Kvitova said.
Kvitova, who made 19 unforced errors, said she had forced herself to begin playing cross-court shots instead of her favorite flat drives in the second set and it paid off.
"It was tough to come back into the match in the second set," Kvitova said. "In the third set I was 3-0 down and I didn't think I could still win. I managed to come back on Svetlana's serve and it was a very important moment in the match."
Kvitova remained unbeaten in six Fed Cup matches this season. The victory was her 12th in a row after winning back-to-back titles in Linz, Austria, and the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul last weekend.
"She began to play much better after she fell behind 3-0 in the third set," Kuznetsova said. "I was just unlucky on some points. The difference between us today was that she had played so many such matches this season, while I rarely had such intriguing matches."
Kvitova won six titles this season and moved to No. 2 in the rankings.
"I played well today, but she was just a bit better on key moments," Kuznetsova said.
Russia was without its top players. Maria Sharapova has an ankle injury and wasn't selected for the final, while Vera Zvonareva was forced to pull out on Friday because of a hurt shoulder.
Tarpischev said Zvonareva's late injury forced him to make some emergency decisions and call up Kirilenko, who was already on vacation.
Russia has won the Fed Cup title four times since 2004 and was unbeaten at home in 10 matches since losing to France in the semifinals in 2003.