Gritty Czechs retain crown

Gritty Czechs retain crown

Tennis Fed Cup : Safarova-Strycova combine beats Russian pair in decider

Gritty Czechs retain crown

 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 on Sunday.

Pliskova and Strycova beat Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuc­henkova and Elena Vesnina 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 at Prague's hardcourt O2 Arena to hand the hosts their fourth trophy in five years.

The Czechs have won their ninth title overall, including five as Czechoslovakia which went on to 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.

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 Czechs 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 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.

Earlier, a rampant Kvitova forced out two breaks in the first set, keeping Sharapova under constant pressure with daring returns.

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. In the final set, Sharapova broke twice while Kvitova piled up errors.

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.

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