Fed Cup: Czech Republic leads Germany 1-0 in final
PRAGUE (AP) Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova won the opening singles matches to give the Czech Republic a commanding 2-0 lead over Germany in the Fed Cup final on Saturday.
Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion, cruised past Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4 and Safarova stretched the lead by defeating the 10th-ranked Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-4 to put the hosts one win away from the third Fed Cup title in four years.
The Czechs won their first title as an independent nation in 2011 and retained the trophy the following year. Czechoslovakia won five times, including three straight from 1983-85.
The reverse singles and doubles are scheduled for Sunday, with Kvitova starting against Kerber.
Safarova converted her third match point with a forehand passing shot for her third break of the set after Kerber previously wasted a 2-0 and a 4-2 lead.
''A fantastic victory,'' Safarova said. ''It's great to win in such a great atmosphere,'' she said about the ecstatic sell-out crowd of 13,000 at O2 Arena.
''It was very close, each point, I concentrated on each point and I believed I was able to break her to come back.''
Kerber broke Safarova to go 4-2 in the first set before the Czech fought back by winning four straight games.
''In the important moments she was there and she hit the ball,'' Kerber said. ''That was the key, she was playing more aggressive in the important moments.''
Petkovic double-faulted to hand Kvitova a match point in the final game and the fourth-ranked Czech converted it when the German sent a forehand too long.
Kvitova improved to 22-6 in the Fed Cup singles and leveled her head-to-head record with Petkovic at 4-4.
''She just played a really good match,'' Petkovic said about the Czech. ''We all knew if Petra is in her right spirit and if she plays that way it's going be difficult for all the players in this world, not only for me on a fast court.''
Kvitova was on top at the start and wore her opponent down with powerful serves and groundstrokes combined with occasional precise drop shots. She hit 25 winners compared to Petkovic's seven.
''That was the tactics on the fast court, to attack from the very start,'' Kvitova said.
Petkovic came into the final having won in Bulgaria on Sunday for her third WTA title of the year but her relative lack of experience of big occasions proved decisive.
Kvitova led the Czechs to their previous two Fed Cup titles while the Germans have not won the trophy since 1992.
''I was nervous but so was Andrea and I was trying to capitalize on that,'' Kvitova said. ''It was not the first time and I have experience to play like that. I'm just glad I did everything well.''
Petkovic double-faulted to drop her serve in the second game of the opening set. Kvitova served an ace in the following game to build a commanding 3-0 lead and attacked Petkovic's second serve with big forehands to earn another break in the sixth game.
The German got one break back to reduce the lead to 5-2 but was broken again when her backhand hit the net on Kvitova's third set point in the following game.
After losing the first set, the 14th-ranked Petkovic broke in the opening game of the second but Kvitova immediately broke back and looked in control throughout.
''It was very important that I got the break back,'' Kvitova said.