Petra Kvitova wins thriller to clinch Fed Cup title for Czech Republic
Petra Kvitova battled back from the brink and mounted a gripping comeback to beat Angelique Kerber 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4 to give the Czech Republic a 3-0 sweep over Germany and clinch its third Fed Cup title in four years. With its eighth title the Czech Republic is now the second most successful Fed Cup country behind the United States' mark of 17. The Czechs' road to the title included wins over Spain and Italy, the defending champions, in the semifinal.
With her idol Martina Navratilova watching with a sell-out crowd of 13,000 fans, Kvitova fought back from a double-break deficit in the first set and 1-4 down in the final frame to end Germany's quest for its first Fed Cup title in 22 years.
"It was an amazing match from both of us," Kvitova said. "A very big fight and Angie played so well. I'm just glad that I did it because it was just about one point point and she could have taken it ... I was lucky in the end, maybe."
The Germans went into Sunday trying to pull off the impossible. No country has ever come back from 0-2 down in the Fed Cup final. The Czechs had a 2-0 lead after Kvitova defeated Andrea Petkovic and Lucie Safarova defeated Kerber on Saturday. German captain Barbara Rittner, a member of Germany's last Fed Cup champion team, chose to stick with Kerber instead of substituting in Sabine Lisicki. But it was a nightmare weekend for Kerber. Germany's No. 1 simply could not play her best when she had a lead. On Saturday she led Safarova by a break in the first and second set only to lose 6-4, 6-4. It was even worse on Sunday.
After building a 5-2 double-break lead in the first set, Kerber served for the set three times only to be broken each time. She saw six set points come and go as Kvitova dialed in her hitting. Kvitova exploited Kerber's weak serve, which never came through for her when she needed it. On the lightning quick surface at Prague's O2 Arena, Kerber didn't serve a single ace on Kvitova. Quick and easy points rarely came for the counter-punching Kerber, while Kvitova always seemed to be able to find a big serve to get her out of trouble. The Wimbledon champion has never met a fast surface that she didn't like. She fired 70 winners (and 62 unforced errors) over three sets, including 12 aces. Kerber countered with 23 winners to 27 unforced errors.
After losing the first set, Kerber fell behind 0-3 but this time it was Kvitova who failed to protect the lead. Kerber went on to win six of the next seven games to pocket the set and Kvitova looked to be suffering physically from the grueling, protracted rallies. She got a visit from the trainer towards the end of the second set to get treated for leg cramps and then took a lengthy bathroom break before the start of the third.
The momentum appeared to be back with the Germans. Lisicki disappeared from the bench, presumably to warm up in place of Petkovic for the fourth rubber, and Kerber raced out to a 3-0 lead. Then, in a mirror image of the second set, Kvitova went on to win six of the next seven games to close out the match. It was a nervy close — she double-faulted and netted an easy forehand sitter on her first two match points — but finally converted on her fourth match point after 2 hours and 58 minutes.
"Extraordinary match today," said Czech captain Petr Pala. "It had everything you expect from a match like this. The performance from both players was outstanding. I'm very proud of Petra that she fought. She showed how good she is and such a good champion. But many respects to Angelique today."
Said Kerber: "I'm a little bit sad but I think it was an unbelievable match against Petra. We had ups and downs and we were fighting until the last point and the crowd was unbelievable. It's still an experience to be in the final and play two matches. I think the Czech girls deserve to win it."
For the Germans, it was a tough way to end what was a remarkable season. After beating Slovakia 3-1 in the first round, the Germans had to fly all the way to Australia in the middle of the clay season for the semifinals. Kerber and Petkovic teamed up to sweep the first three matches, with Kerber clinching with a hard-fought three-set win over Sam Stosur. They came into this weekend's final as the underdogs given the Czech's experience and home court advantage, but with Kerber coming so close to notching two singles wins it will be difficult to avoid the "what ifs" on the flight home.
The win caps off a strong season for Kvitova, who finished the campaign with three WTA titles, including her second Wimbledon win and yet another Fed Cup trophy. Though she went undefeated through her 2014 Fed Cup season, it was a true team effort that got the Czechs into the final. Playing without Kvitova in the first round against Spain, the Czechs rallied from a 1-2 deficit to beat Spain thanks to victories from Safarova, Klara Koukalova, and the doubles team of Andrea Hlavackova and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova. Kvitova returned to the team for the semifinals and they went on to sweep both Italy and now Germany.
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