Czech Republic edge thrilling final to retain Fed Cup


Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova came from a set down in a decisive doubles rubber as the Czech Republic edged out Russia to secure a fourth Fed Cup title in five years.

For the first time since 2011, when the Czechs also beat Russia, the final was taken all the way as Maria Sharapova's epic 3-6 6-4 6-2 victory over Petra Kvitova was followed by Pliskova beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3 6-4.

Having kept her country in the contest with a singles triumph, Pliskova then teamed up with Strycova to earn a 4-6 6-3 6-2 victory over Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina - delighting the majority of a partisan crowd at Prague's O2 Arena.

The end result, which prevented Anastasia Myskina from becoming the fourth woman to win the Fed Cup as a player and captain, was tough on Sharapova, who had produced a magnificent performance to win her second point and give Russia a 2-1 lead earlier on Sunday.

Having initially been forced onto the back foot by Kvitova's ultra-aggressive approach, the five-time grand slam champion showed tremendous determination to level her singles match as both players went for their shots during an enthralling second set.

Sharapova then finished much the stronger, with Kvitova guilty of increasingly frequent errors as she suffered a first defeat in nine Fed Cup outings.

Needing a win to keep the contest alive, Pliskova responded impressively - striking 12 winners with her forehand alone to take the first set against Pavlyuchenkova.

A stronger challenge was provided by Pavlyuchenkova in the second set, but Pliskova proved the more clinical as she levelled the tie.

And another even more important success came Pliskova's way as she and Strycova triumphed in a tense doubles encounter.

After spurning a 2-0 lead to lose the opening set, the Czech pairing seized the initiative, first drawing level and then securing another early break at the start of the decider when Vesnina netted a forehand from the baseline.

A similar shot from Vesnina ensured Russia failed to convert a break point in the sixth game of set three, a missed opportunity that suddenly appeared even more costly as the Czechs promptly moved 5-2 ahead.

That gave Strycova the chance to serve out the match and she made no mistake to spark scenes of jubilation.