Prague | Fed Cup Champions Czechs win at home
The Czech Republic avenged its defeat at the hands of USA in last year’s semi-finals of the Fed Cup by beating the defending champions in Prague in front of an ecstatic home crowd and raising the trophy.
Katerina Siniakova took the third rubber by beating Sofia Kenin in a marathon battle that went the distance on Sunday, leading the Czech team to a 6th Fed Cup title in 8 years.
It was an incredible game for me, up and down, lots of nerves. I'm just terribly happy I've won. I was so nervous, I can't describe it, and I'm really looking forward to some time off, Katerina Siniakova
The World No 31 snuffed out 2 match points to beat the 19-year-old, 52nd-ranked Kenin, 7-5 5-7 7-5, in 2 hours and 43 minutes to wrap up a 3-0 victory.
It is an 11th overall title for the Czechs, 5 of which came as the former Czechoslovakia, a haul second only to the US and their record of 18.
“It was an incredible game for me, up and down, lots of nerves,” Siniakova said. “I’m just terribly happy I’ve won.
“I was so nervous, I can’t describe it, and I’m really looking forward to some time off,” she added.
Groundstrokes and long rallies prevailed in Sunday’s rubber as both Siniakova and Kenin struggled with their serves, losing it more often than not in the first set.
Siniakova looked ready to cruise through after getting a break point in Kenin’s first service game.
The Czech raced to 3-0 again in the second set but the American put up a fight and narrowly missed forcing a tiebreak before Siniakova took the first set with a strong forehand smash.
The 22-year-old, who is the World No 1 in doubles alongside her teammate Barbora Krejcikova, managed an extra break to take the set 7-5 as Kenin notched up 23 unforced errors.
The Russian-born American, making her Fed Cup debut, kept piling on the errors early into the second set as Siniakova took a 3-0 lead.
The American No 1 for the tie, despite still seeking her maiden WTA singles title, regained composure in time to win the next four games before taking the set 7-5 as Siniakova visibly struggled with her nerves.
Kenin then fought off 2 break balls and used a beautiful drop shot to hold serve, starting a comeback.
She evened the match with a forehand winner past Siniakova for set point.
The Czech took another 3-0 lead in the third set and held on to the advantage in an interminable 19-minute game five in which Kenin squandered 5 break balls to go up 4-1.
Kenin, who underwent treatment on her left thigh, however, came back and took a 5-4 lead before earning 2 match points, which Siniakova denied, gaining the momentum.
She started the final game with a nicely placed crosscourt drop shot on the run and then Kenin returned a backhand wide on match point, igniting Czech celebrations.
“I felt terrible there. The worst,” said Siniakova. “But you keep playing until the last match point is won.”
That is what happened, as Siniakova took the game, earned a break and won the set 7-5.
The Czech completed the match hitting 4 aces and winning 56% of first serve points.
Kenin had 42 winners to 24 and looked more aggressive off both sides as her 23 forehand winners to 12 and her 19 backhand ones to 12 demonstrated.
She was also less measured and controlled, as she registered 76 unforced errors throughout the match.
“It was an unbelievable match for me. It was up and down, nerves,” the 22-year-old Siniakova continued on the court after the marathon match that was just short of the longest rubber, at four hours flat, in Fed Cup history.
“I am just terribly happy I won.”
It all proved too much in the end for Kenin, who cried after the match and was consoled by her team mates.
“I am proud of the way I competed. I never gave up. When I was down, I was still fighting out there,” said Kenin, who broke into the top 100 in 2018 and ended the year ranked 48th.
The American had also pushed Czech veteran Barbora Strycova, playing in her final tie for the Czechs after a 16-year Fed Cup career, to three sets on Saturday.
With the Czechs an unassailable 3-0 up in the best-of-five final, the second reverse singles and the doubles were cancelled, emphasising the flaw in the current Fed Cup format.