OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC: The Czech Republic’s remarkable run in Fed Cup by BNP Paribas – indeed in team tennis generally – goes on. The champions for the past two years secured their place in this year’s semifinals by taking a 3-0 lead over Australia, and it was done the hard way, Petra Kvitova coming back from match point down to beat Sam Stosur in the top match of the weekend.
While the result is entirely in keeping with the Fortress Fed Cup Petr Pala has created with his happy and powerful Czech team, it’s also a bitter blow for Stosur. After losing to Lucie Safarova on two tiebreaks on Saturday, she played vastly better tennis for an hour, reminding those watching why she was US Open champion in 2011.
But once she had missed a match point on 67 minutes that would have given her a 62 64 victory, the tide changed, and suddenly it was easy to see why Kvitova was 2011’s Wimbledon champion. A late rally by Stosur made the scoreline an acceptable 26 76(3) 64 for Kvitova.
"It was my first really good match this year," said Kvitova in an on-court interview with FedCup.com. "When I lost the first set I didn’t want to give up the match, I knew the next matches could be very tough, which is why I fought a lot, and the key was the tiebreak in the second set."
After four warm-up games, Stosur opened up from 2-2 in the first set. Mixing up some aggressive hitting with remarkably effective defence on the slice – both forehand and backhand – she broke Kvitova twice as the Czech’s game went badly off. The first set took just 27 minutes.
Six successive breaks at the start of the second then gave way to six service holds, but they included a match point for Stosur at 5-4. With Kvitova serving at 30-40, she jammed the Australian with a second serve into the body. The split second’s hesitation forced Stosur to spoon the ball two-handed over Kvitova’s baseline and the chance was gone. Stosur led the tiebreak 2-0 but Kvitova then reeled off six straight points and took the breaker 7-3.
Stosur had two break points in the opening game of the third, and blew one of them on a fairly easy forehand volley when she seemed caught between about three ways of playing it. Once Kvitova had held, it was like the genie was out of the bottle, and she raced to a 5-0 lead.
Stosur then pleased as if released from an obligation – she got it back to 4-5 and had a point to level at 5-5. But the story of her weekend is that she has played her best tennis when the pressure has been off, and the moment she made it tight, the errors crept back into her game, and Kvitova won in two hours and five minutes.
"I don’t think I did much wrong today," Stosur said after the match. "It was one that just slipped away. Petra played a very good match, in the second set I thought we were both playing very high quality and when it comes down to that, it was just a point here and a point there."
To view match statistics click here: Live scores
Captain Alicia Molik (AUS) - 10/02/2013
Sam Stosur (AUS) - 10/02/2013
Petra Kvitova (CZE) - 10/02/2013
Captain Petr Pala (CZE) - 10/02/2013