Prague: Petra Kvitova handed the Czech Republic their third Fed Cup title in four years after beating Angelique Kerber in the final on Sunday to give her team an unbeatable lead over Germany.
Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic (in blue) hugs teammate Lucie Safarova after beating Germany's Angelique Kerber in the Fed Cup final in Prague yesterday. Pic/AFP
Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion and world number four, beat 10th-ranked Kerber in a three-set rollercoaster rubber pitting the teams' number one players 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and 57 minutes.
The Czechs won the tie 3-1 after Germany's Julia Goerges and Sabine Lisicki beat a reunited Czech pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-4, 6-3 in Sunday's dead doubles rubber. Spearheaded by Kvitova, the Czechs already won the cup in 2011 and 2012, following five titles earned by the former Czechoslovakia in 1975-1988.
Germany, with Steffi Graf in the team, last won the Fed Cup in 1992. "Angie played so well and I'm just glad that I did it, it was really about one point and then she could take it," said a jubilant Kvitova, who had beaten Germany's number two Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4 on Saturday.
"It was really up and down from the beginning of the match and there was always a big fight for every single point," added the 24-year-old who won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014. "I had cramps at the end of the second set, doctors gave me a lot of magnesium. I was lucky in the end maybe."
Kerber had to shake off Saturday's 6-4, 6-4 defeat at the hands of Czech number two Lucie Safarova. "I gave everything I had today and in the end Petra was better, I think she deserved to win but we both played at a really high level," said the 26-year-old German. "It was for sure one of the best matches this year for me."
The first set turned into a 76-minute thriller with both left-handers at their most aggressive on the superfast hardcourt of Prague's O2 Arena packed with 13,000 fans. Kvitova squandered four break points while Kerber needed a single one to break her in the fifth game before doing it again for a 5-2 lead.
But Kvitova showed why Czech fans and media call her "Lioness" and broke her rival back twice to come level at 5-5. Kerber went on an attacking spree to earn another break and grab a 6-5 lead, before the drama peaked in game 12. Kerber had five set points in that game but Kvitova managed to tame her before converting her fifth break point of the game to take the set to a tie-break.
The Czech star rallied to a 4-1 lead, allowed Kerber to come level but finally took the tie-break 7-5 with a roaring forehand down the line. Kvitova had 31 winners but 30 unforced errors in that set, against 12 winners and 16 unforced errors for Kerber.
The crestfallen Kerber lost momentum early into the second set and let Kvitova take a 3-0 lead after winning the first two games to love. But she was quick to recover as she broke Kvitova's serve twice to make it 3-3.
Combining ferocious shots with slices and stop volleys, Kerber and Kvitova held onto their serves until Kerber earned two break points at 5-4 and converted the second one as Kvitova fired wide to take the set after 46 minutes.
In high spirits, Kerber broke Kvitova early into the third set as the Czech kept piling up unforced errors. But Kvitova fought back once again, broke Kerber's serve twice and closed the rubber out on her fourth match point as Kerber netted a backhand shot.
"I'm very proud of Petra. She showed how good she is as a true champion but many respects to Angelique today," said Czech captain Petr Pala.