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05 February 2012

Defending champions roll into semifinals


MATCH REPORT

By 

  • Barry Millns

Photo: Paul ZimmerPetra Kvitova (CZE)

STUTTGART, GERMANY: World No.2 Petra Kvitova underlined her standing as one of the best players on the planet when she clinched another World Group semifinal spot for the defending Fed Cup by BNP Paribas champions. Having helped Czech Republic to a 2-0 lead away to Germany on Saturday, Kvitova again fought back from a set down to win the first reverse singles against Sabine Lisicki 67(2) 64 61.

So disappointed to have lost a tough battle in the opening rubber against Iveta Benesova, Lisicki returned to the packed Porsche Arena determined to challenge the Wimbledon champion all the way. Showing no signs of the nerves which had afflicted her in the first match, Lisicki played a terrific first set against the top Czech, dropping just six points against her serve in holding it comfortably and then taking the tiebreak 7-2.

But Kvitova, who hasn’t lost indoors since the Moscow WTA tournament in 2010, continues to prove herself a formidable competitor and remaining patient finally got the first break of the match to win the second set. From there the tall Czech left-hander kept up her momentum with some typically forceful play.

A rasping forehand return up the line off a short second serve earned Kvitova a 2-0 lead in the decider and, having saved the last of four break points she faced in the match when serving at 3-1 with a driven forehand winner cross court, she powered through to victory after 2 hours 10 minutes play.

Having high-fived her teammates and then shared in a celebratory team hug on court, Kvitova agreed that patience had been a key to her thirteenth Fed Cup singles victory and eighth in a row.

“Yeah, I mean I had trouble with my return at the beginning and it was really a long time when I know what I had to do,” admitted the 21-year-old Czech. “It was in the middle of the second set so I’m happy that I got it and I knew how I can return her serve. She played very well and I’m really happy that we have three points already.”

Lisicki, who was clearly upset to have lost the opening rubber against Benesova after also winning their first set (a match which Germany really needed to win to trouble the champions), was far more upbeat after this defeat and rightly so.

“I think Petra played better in the big points,” said Lisicki. “It was a very close match and I’m happy that I played way better than yesterday. So I’m a little bit proud that I came out today and played a lot better.”

Germany must now wait to see who they will face in April’s World Group play-offs. If Germany’s highest ranked player, Andrea Petkovic, is also back in the team after injury they should be very tough to stop retaining a place amongst the elite.

As for the Czechs, they can now look forward to a semifinal against either Italy or Ukraine and judging by the support they enjoyed in Stuttgart from the travelling supporters, it should make for a rousing and heart-warming homecoming.

Germany and Czech Republic split the remaining rubbers to finish with a scorline of 4-1. Angelique Kerber worked hard to restore some pride beating Lucie Hradecka 64 64 before Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova paired up to beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Julia Goerges 63 76(4).

Captain Barbara Rittner (GER) - 05/02/12

Sabine Lisicki (GER) - 05/02/2012

Captain Petr Pala (CZE) - 05/02/2012

Petra Kvitova (CZE) - 05/02/2012

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  • WORLD GROUP FIRST ROUND

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    Porsche Arena, Stuttgart, Germany

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    Barry Millns

    Barry has covered international tennis for more than 20 years as a commentator and reporter in radio and television. In that time he has attended numerous Grand Slams, Davis Cup plus Fed Cup ties and is now primarily a lead commentator with Sky Sports. Barry, who once attempted to return Mark Philippoussis' serve and lived to tell the tale, just, is also the current chairman of the British tennis journalists' group, the Lawn Tennis Writers' Association.

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