STUTTGART, GERMANY: As expected Czech Republic were extremely hard pressed as they began the defence of their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas title away from home. But proud champions that they are Iveta Benesova and Petra Kvitova took it in turns to fight back from a set down in each of their matches to give the visitors a commanding 2-0 lead after the first day’s play.
With Germany’s top ranked player Andrea Petkovic, sidelined before the tie by injury but cheering loudly throughout from the team bench, Sabine Lisicki led the German challenge. After a nervous start she looked on course for an important win when she took the first set against Benesova with a second break of serve. But two breaks to one in the second set enabled the Czech left-hander to level the match and having broken again for 3-2 in the decider she did not look back, winning 26 64 62.
“I was happy I could turn it around in the second set,” said Benesova. “Especially, I was 2-1 down 15-40 and I served really well so that helped me a lot. Then I got in the match and I felt like I’m pushing her and I have the control over the match.”
It was then down to Germany’s Julia Goerges to try to restore parity for the hosts and with some inspired play she very nearly did, twice getting to within two points of victory in a high quality encounter. Going for her shots from the start against the Wimbledon champion, Goerges hit some brilliant returns off the Kvitova serve.
But having dropped the first set after two breaks to one against her, the Czech world No. 2 levelled the match after another break in the penultimate game of the second set, so delighting the small band of passionate Czech supporters who had made the trip across the border. What followed was an 18-game decider, full of fluctuations with Goerges twice breaking straight back, Kvitova then holding serve three times to stay in the match, before one more break in her favour set up the hold of serve to give her a 36 63 108 victory – her 12th in Fed Cup singles and her 26th in a row indoors!
“It was really little difference between us,” acknowledged Kvitova. ”It was a very tough match and Julia played very well all match and she served very well and it wasn’t easy to finish the match with my serve.”
The Czech captain Petr Pala was very proud of his two players’ efforts. “I think we saw two great matches with happy end for us…They both didn’t start that well but I was very happy to overcome that.”
As for Germany’s captain Barbara Rittner, after such a day’s play to end up with nothing was tough to take. “I’m disappointed of course. We saw one unbelievable match (Goerges vs Kvitova) two and a half hours, great tennis, I had goose bumps all over my body in the last hour or so. It was very tough to lose that one and even before Sabine had her chances and now in the end it’s 0-2 and that’s the worst we could have.”
In the first reverse singles Lisicki must now beat Kvitova to keep German hopes alive. Three years ago Lisicki won their first encounter in Miami but that was long before the young Czech had blossomed into the forceful world beater she now is and considering no German team has ever come back from 2-0 down to win a Fed Cup tie the champions are heavy favourites from here to reach the semifinals.
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