Tue, Nov 06, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Czechs overwhelm Serbia to retain Fed Cup

AFP, PRAGUE

Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic reacts after winning a point against Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic in their Fed Cup final match in Prague on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

The Czech Republic won a second straight Fed Cup on Sunday after Lucie Safarova gave them an unbeatable 3-1 lead over Serbia by thrashing Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-1 in Prague.

Safarova, the world No. 17, cruised past No. 22 Jankovic in just 1 hour, 17 minutes, keeping the Serbian under constant pressure and earning 32 winners against Jankovic’s eight.

“It’s fantastic because it happened at home, in Prague, in front of our fans,” a triumphant Safarova said after the game, which improved her head-to-head record with Jankovic to two wins and five losses.

“It was one of the best games I’ve played in my career,” added the 25-year-old Safarova, who has a Serbian coach.

“It was unbelievable. She hardly missed one ball,” Czech Republic team captain Petr Pala said.

Jankovic, who gave up five break points, was in tears as she told reporters she was playing with a back injury.

“I tried my best, but it wasn’t enough. I had this problem for a couple of days and it got really bad,” said the 27-year-old Jankovic, who had treatment for several minutes between the two sets.

“I thought I could bring out the best, but throughout the match it was getting worse and worse,” she added.

The Czech Republic stumbled earlier on Sunday after Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic reduced their two-rubber lead from Saturday to 2-1 by beating Petra Kvitova 6-3, 7-5.

Ivanovic, the world No. 12, needed 1:46 to sink Kvitova, the world No. 8, who was grappling with the effects of an illness.

Kvitova, sweating profusely and visibly weakened by a cold that forced her to pull out of the WTA Championship last week, lost her first rubber after an 11-game Fed Cup winning streak.

“I really started swinging from the beginning and it worked well for me,” said 24-year-old Ivanovic, the Serbian No. 1, who had lost to Safarova on Saturday.

“I was a lot calmer today and I was sort of playing the game that I’ve been playing lately,” she added.

Kvitova managed to fight back at the end of the second set, when she broke Ivanovic’s serve for the first time and seemed on the verge of overwhelming her rival, but Ivanovic broke back as she converted the third match point in the last game.

Kvitova, who is 22, refused to blame the loss on her illness.

“I felt better and I found it easier to breathe than on Saturday, but I lost a lot of strength yesterday and I was also drained emotionally,” she said.

However, Serbia, playing their first ever final, never had a chance to come close as Safarova rallied to put the left-handed Czech Republic team ahead.

“Petra was sick, so she wasn’t at her best today and I thought: ‘OK, it’s going to be my turn this time,’ and I’m really happy that I did it,” Safarova said.

On Saturday, Kvitova and Safarova eased past their rivals in straight sets to give the Czech Republic a 2-0 lead.

The doubles tie was canceled as the jubilant Czech Republic team poured onto the court to lift the cup.

Czech fans are now setting their sights on a rare double when the country’s Davis Cup team host holders Spain in the final in Prague on Nov. 16 to Nov. 18.

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