A gripping day of tennis at the O2 Arena concluded with the host nation jubilant as Czech Republic successfully defended their Fed Cup crown with a 3-2 victory over Russia. The powerful tennis nation have now won the title in four of the past five years thanks to their strong depth and the devotion of their top players to support the competition each year.
Setting up the deciding doubles rubber
Sunday's Fed Cup action kicked off with the marquee match-up of the competition, as top-10 players and slam champions Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova faced off. In a high quality match the Russian battled past the Czech number one in three sets, giving Russia a 2-1 advantage. The following rubber saw Karolina Pliskova level the tie at 2-2 defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. With both countries unable to field their top doubles specialists,the selections for the doubles match featured inexperienced pairing on both sides. With Russia unable to field Ekaterina Makarova due to injury, Pavlyuchenkova stepped in to team up with Elena Vesnina. Czech Republic was without their own stalwart doubles team of Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova, fielding instead Pliskova and Barbora Strycova. For both Pliskova and Pavlyuchenkova, this would be their third match of the weekend, only resting for about 40 minutes after their singles encounter concluded.
Russia takes the first set coming from break down
First blood in the doubles match came from the host nation as the Czech team got off to an early break advantage. Strycova looked immediately to be pumped and ready for the tie impressing straight out of the box with great net approaches and volley winners. This early momentum wasn't able to last as Russia quickly got the match back on serve. Serving at 4-4, the often reliable serve of Pliskova faltered, double faulting to open the game and losing the next three points to get broken at love. Vesnina held serve and Russia took the first set 6-4.
Czech Republic able to turn the match around
The second set started similar to the first with the Czech's going up early breaking the Vesnina serve. The serve of Vesnina would prove a liability in not just the second set but the rest of the match, as she was broken a second time to give the Czech's a healthy 5-1 second set advantage. At this point the match seemed to become quite nervy as the Czech duo failed to serve out the set with some sloppy play and the quality from both sides seemed to be lacking in this moment. On their second attempt to close out the match the Czech team was successful, taking the second set 6-3.
The role of Vesnina and Strycova, chosen to play the doubles rubber for their doubles expertise, was vital in determining the outcome of the match. Both Vesnina and Strycova were more dynamic than their teammates, wanting to finish off points and looking to create plays. The duo targeted each other unafraid to go after the other at net.
In both sets, Strycova starting winning the battle of net players with incredible reactions and gets turning the match around as Pliskova used her serve to good measure. The poor serving from Vesnina and inability to play well under pressure on return meant the Czech team were able to end the match looking the much stronger team, winning in the end 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
In total, the three matches on Sunday provided eight hours of intense action and drama featuring players fighting hard for their nations and teammates. The incredible atmosphere provided by the boisterous Czech crowd was the perfect backdrop to one of the best Fed Cup Finals in history. Along with those who played over the weekend, Lucie Safarova, Lucie Hradecka, Denisa Allertova and Tereza Smitkova were honored as members of Fed Cup winning team for their contributions in earlier rounds of play.