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21 April 2014

Czechs set sights on title number eight


NEWS ARTICLE

By Kirsten Webster

Photo: Martin SidorjakPetra Kvitova (CZE)

The Czech team, led by their astute and calm captain, Petr Pala were invincible in their semifinal against the defending champions, Italy in Ostrava.

Spearheaded by the world No. 6, Petra Kvitova, the Czechs used every inch of their home court advantage to deflate Italian hopes of an upset on day one.

Lucie Safarova frustrated Italy’s linchpin Sara Errani, sweeping her aside before there was any threat of a challenge. Kvitova followed up with the psychological blow, exciting the raucous home fans with another straight sets victory – this time, over the rising star of Camila Giorgi.

Down 2-0, the Italian captain, Corrado Barazzutti, took the seemingly obvious decision to call a team meeting on Saturday night – he was switching his line-up for the reverse singles to give Roberta Vinci the chance of getting Italy back in the tie.

Vinci threw everything at Kvitova and for a time there was a noticeable wobble in the Czech camp - but even with 38 unforced errors, the former Wimbledon champion dug herself out of trouble to clinch the match and secure a home Fed Cup Final in November.

The Czech pairing of Andrea Hlavackova and Klara Koukolava completed the 4-0 scoreline with defeat over Camila Giorgi and Karin Knapp in the dead doubles rubber.

Pala showed how much the victory meant to his team and the nation by leading the players into an impromptu energetic jig on the court. Flashbacks to their Fed Cup Final victory over Serbia in 2012.

“We have another home final and we still have memories from that final because it was a really great experience for all of us with a sold out crowd. We are really looking forward but now we want to enjoy this moment,” Pala said.

The Czech team victory had personal significance for Kvitova who revelled playing in front of her own parents and travelling fan club.

“It's pressure every time my parents come, he was my coach until I was 16 so for him it’s pretty tough and for me it is not easy. I'm playing almost in my hometown. It's unbelievable for us. It will be a nice final for us here against Germany."

As the celebrations spilled into the stands of the CEZ Arena, the Italians were forced to lick their wounds and console themselves with memories of last year’s title victory.

Barazzutti was philosophical and stoic in defeat, whilst remaining proud of the Italian efforts on a court so clearly beyond his players’ comfort zone.

“We are not of course happy because we lost 4-0 but anyway we tried hard, the players tried to play their best. We lost against the best team in the world. If I have to analyse the match, the Czech players played better. And we now wait for the next round. Tomorrow is another day.”

And that tomorrow Barazzutti was referring to is already here. The celebrations are over and the players from both nations are already in Stuttgart. The Czech Republic has a long wait to dance on the court again. 

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