MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Czech Republic are the 2011 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas champions after overcoming Russia 3-2 in a dramatic final at the Olympic Stadium.
For the first time in five years the final went down to the wire and it was up to the doubles pairing of Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke to seal the winning point with a 64 62 victory against Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina.
Czech captain Petr Pala said after the match: "I'm glad that we won it, and it's a great feeling. We really want to enjoy it today. I think all the girls and myself and the whole team, you know, it's an unbelievable feeling."
The Czech pair looked the better of the two doubles teams from the outset. Hradecka was hitting with immense power, while Peschke relied more on her experience and great net play.
Kirilenko and Vesnina, who are good friends off the court, just didn’t seem to gel as well as the Czechs and made too many unforced errors which ultimately proved the difference between the two sides.
Earlier in the day, the win was set up by world No. 2 Petra Kvitova, who came back to deny Svetlana Kuznetsova a fourth Fed Cup title, in what proved to be by far the best rubber of the weekend.
Kuznetsova made the most of an erratic serving display by Kvitova early on in the match to take the first set 64. The Russian was then outplayed and outclassed by Kvitova who took the second set 62.
But after taking a toilet break, it was the Russian who took the match by the scruff of the neck and came out firing in the third set. She raced to a 3-0 lead and had the capacity crowd shouting “Svet-a”, but far from inspiring the home player, it was Kvitova who rose to the occasion.
The lefthander reeled off the next six games to clinch what would prove to be a vital point in the outcome of the tie and explained that it was her captain who gave her the belief she needed to win.
“When I had three-love down,” she said “I didn't think that I can still win. My captain told me, it's only one break, so go for it. It was very important game for me.”
Needing victory to keep her country’s hopes of winning a fifth Fed Cup title alive, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova replaced Maria Kirilenko in the second of the reverse singles rubbers against Lucie Safarova.
The Russian proved too strong for the Czech and ran out a winner in straight sets 62 64, citing the love of the competition as the reason for her improved performance compared with recent results.
She said: “It's all about motivation, because nowhere else can I motivate myself like I'm motivating here when playing Fed Cup. This is what I'm going to work on this season, because I'm just asking myself, why not play all my matches like I'm playing here in Fed Cup?”
It is a first Fed Cup title as an independent nation for the Czech Republic and a first win since 1988 – when they competed as Czechoslovakia. With Kvitova on the team, this is a strong Czech unit and one that will take some beating in the future.
Petra Kvitova (CZE) - 06/11/2011
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) - 06/11/2011
Lucie Safarova (CZE) - 06/11/2011
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) - 06/11/2011
Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke (CZE) - 06/11/2011
Captain Petr Pala (CZE) - 06/11/2011
Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina (RUS) - 06/11/2011