Following the three set victory of Maria Sharapova over Petra Kvitova, the hopes of the host nation fell on the shoulders of Karolina Pliskova. The world number 11 has only played a handful of Fed Cup rubbers in her career and came into this weekend fatigued from a grueling season but she summoned all her fight to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.
Pliskova's serve and forehand: the decided factors
The first set of the match saw only a single break of serve coming in the middle of the set, with Pliskova consolidating her advantage thanks to her powerful serve. The 6'1 Czech player led the 2015 WTA Tour in number of aces and was able to produce five in the opening set, aided by the quick indoor surface of the O2 Arena in Prague. Serving up 5-4, Pliskova was able to save break points showing that despite the pressure of the must-win match, she could remain collected and play some clutch tennis. The forehand winner below, one of eleven in the set, exemplifies the combination of power and control she used to win the first set handily.
The second set opened with a trading of breaks, both players double faulting at important moments. The games continued on serve, with the Pliskova service game at 3-4 crucial to the match. Pliskova was up 40-15 in the game but Pavlyuchenkova brought the game back to deuce and gave herself a break point opportunity. If Pavlyuchenkova wanted to get herself back into the match, this was the moment she needed to strike. Unfortunately for the Russian, she was unable to convert on her two break point chances in the game and Pliskova fired down on ace to ultimately hold. With her chance gone, the 24-year-old lost her service game easily, forced to watch a booming forehand return winner go past her. In one of the biggest games of her career, Pliskova successfully served out the match giving the Czech Republic their second victory of the weekend 6-3, 6-4.
While the Russian had her chances the match was always on the racquet of the Czech player, ending the match with 38 total winners and nine aces. Remaining clutch in the key moments Pliskova didn't falter against an opponent who made far fewer errors. Despite her size and known as a player who lacks mobility, Pliskova also showed great hands and net play winning ten of fifteen net approaches, including the point below where she narrowly avoided touching the net.
Deciding Doubles Match
With the Fed Cup World Group Finals tied 2-2 a doubles match will determine this year's champion. Selected for the doubles match are Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova for the Czech team and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina for Russia. Neither of the teams play doubles with each other regularly, and a victory clinching the Fed Cup crown would be a major highlight in the careers of any of the players.