PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC: Czech Republic have won the first point of this Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final in front of their home crowd, following a 64 63 victory for Czech No. 2 Lucie Safarova over her higher-ranked opponent, Ana Ivanovic.
The Serbian almost seemed to run out of steam in a physically challenging match for both players but it was the seemingly more confident player, Safarova, who kept her nose ahead throughout most of the match.
Now, Petra Kvitova takes on Jelena Jankovic in the second rubber in an attempt to have a clear lead at the end of the day one. The two surprisingly have only played each other once so there is little history to go on. And with Kvitova slightly under par physically, perhaps this will be a chance for Jankovic to save the day.
As it happened....
Safarova 64 6-3* Ivanovic
It's game, set, match as Safarova takes it to love. Ivanovic just can't break the jinx. Safarova throws herself into the air as Czech Republic take the opening rubber of this Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final. Can Petra Kvitova swing it 2-0 for day one?
Safarova 64 *5-3 Ivanovic
Krunic is doing everything she can to get her team and the fans behind her in full voice. On court the girls go toe to toe until Ivanovic earns break point with advantage. Safarova saves brilliant with a clean volley and Ivanovic holds out her hand as if to say 'how can I deal with that??'. She loses another two and Safarova holds with an ace.
Courtside, the Czech doubles team, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka are both draped in huge Czech flags.
Safarova 64 4-3* Ivanovic
Safarova is not letting Ivanovic get her way, pushing and pulling her from corner to corner to keep the game alive as it's one break point after another for the Czechs. Meanwhile Ivanovic is full of emotion, rolling her eyes, almost smashing her racket, roaring with victory, yelling in frustration as she fights to hold.
Safarova 64 *4-2 Ivanovic
Teammate Aleksandra Krunic is up on her feet pleading with and encouraging Ivanovic to lift herself up as the Czechs go 4-2 up in this second set.
Safarova 64 3-2* Ivanovic
This time it's Safarova's turn to shank one into the net, Ivanovic saving a tight game with a slightly awkward, but effective, volley.
Safarova 64 *3-1 Ivanovic
A 64 3-1 lead for the Czechs sealed with an ace. The cheerstix are going crazy. It's looking like a 4th consecutive win for Safarova over Ivanovic unless Ana can find a way to break the resilience of Safarova.
Safarova 64 2-1* Ivanovic
Safarova is really punishing Ivanovic's weak spot, her backhand. Ivanovic swipes a ball away as she secures her first game of the set - just - from 40-30.
Safarova 64 *2-0 Ivanovic
Safarova saves one break back point at 15-40 with that lefty forehand and Ivanovic does it for her when she sends a backhand wide to creep to deuce. Safarova wins the game as Ivanovic sends a crosscourt backhand volley just wide and she looks at her team practically in tears. The match has hit the 1 hour mark.
Safarova 64 1-0* Ivanovic
An immediate break for Safarova, Ivanovic seems lethargic and lost.
FIRST SET CZECH REPUBLIC 6-4
Safarova *6-4 Ivanovic
The Serb bench are still gabbling away to Ivanovic as she moves to the far end of the court for the change of ends. The game begins with a lengthy baseline rally and once again Ivanovic attempts a backhand slice volley which falls flat into the net. She then sends a service return to exactly the same spot and crumples up in anger in response. As the Czechs go 30-15 up, the Serbian bench demand support from their fans in the stands immediately behind them. A blistering crosscourt backhand from Safarova sets up game point but she immediately double faults to narrow the margin to 40-30. Into deuce, and she restores pride with her big lefty forehand and does it again to hold serve and take the first set by a narrow margin. Ivanovic is devastated.
Safarova 5-4* Ivanovic
A tetchy start to the game as the Czechs respond outrageously to Ivanovic's serve that was called good. Safarova challenges and wins. A perfect crosscourt volley and an ace straight after sets up game point for Ivanovic and luckily for her, Safarova sends a forehand long.
Safarova *5-3 Ivanovic
Safarova holds and there seems to be a lapse in fighting spirit in Ivanovic. A couple of weak points.
Safarova 4-3* Ivanovic
Safarova breaks back again with a wonderful backhand return out of Ivanovic's reach and the whole stadium erupts.
Safarova *3-3 Ivanovic
Serbia win the first two points off the Czech serve but Ivanovic sends a forehand long which has the Czech team on their feet to encourage their girl. She rallies back to 40-30, and seals the game with her first ace of the match. She's playing a decent and steady match so far, Safarova, really keeping toe to toe with her higher-ranked opponent.
Safarova 2-3* Ivanovic
A much needed solid service game from Ivanovic and she holds to love. Captain Dejan Vranes is dramatically kneeled in front of her at the change of ends talking her through her game.
Safarova *2-2 Ivanovic
Ivanovic leaps in the air with a fist pump towards her team as she breaks back to bring the match on an even keel again. A double fault and a couple of erroneous shots have Safarova wincing at her captain.
Safarova 2-1* Ivanovic
Between every point the Czech band strikes up with a sort of ominous trumpet solo. Some good pace at the baseline in this game, it feels the match really starts now. Ivanovic has got Safarova from corner to corner and gets game point at advantage. Safarova wisely comes into the net and smacks a forehand which Ivanovic returns straight into the net. Break point saved. But the Czech gets another one and converts on Ivanovic's fifth double fault of the match in just three games.
Safarova *1-1 Ivanovic
First double fault from Safarova takes it to 30-30 but she's working hard at the net to cut short the Serb's powerful forehands from the baseline. Terrible attempt at a slice volley from the baseline by Ivanovic sets Safarova up with advantage and game point which she follows up with a 175 km/h serve, which Ivanovic returns wide.
Safarova 0-1* Ivanovic
A nervous start from both girls but Ivanovic is using her serve to good effect, shakes off a break point to Safarova and manages to hold in the opening game after the first Hawk-Eye challenge of the match from the Czech goes Ivanovic's way.
13:35 Ivanovic won the toss and has chosen to serve.
13:32 Jana Novotna has just got the crowd roaring as she is presented with the Award of Excellence. Now it's down to the teams. High fives and a group huddle from the Serbs. They're both getting psyched up courtside with their captains. Both looking like they're ready for business.
13:24 This is actually a particularly interesting match-up we have for the opening rubber. Safarova and Ivanovic have played five times overall, but Safarova has won their last three matches - and they were all on hard court, like at this final. Ivanovic is having a resurgence this year but equally Safarova is enjoying a career-high ranking. It could really come down to who copes with the occasion better. Let's hope it's a good battle.
13:20 Welcome back to the Fed Cup Final for 2012. Just 10 minutes til play is due to start. Already it's an amazing atmosphere and the stadium isn't even half full. The travelling army of Czech fans are stealing all the airtime from the corner of the O2 Arena... We shortly have a presentation for the Fed Cup Award of Excellence to kickstart the final.