Mon, Nov 16, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Sharapova beats Pliskova to tie Fed Cup final 1-1

AP, PRAGUE

Russia’s Maria Sharapova waves to spectators after winning her Fed Cup final match against the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova in Prague on Saturday.

Photo: EPA

Maria Sharapova on Saturday won to put Russia level with defending champions the Czech Republic at 1-1 in the Fed Cup final.

Sharapova defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-4, after two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova overcame a slow start to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-1, 6-1.

The reverse singles and doubles were scheduled for yesterday at Prague’s O2 Arena, where security has been stepped up following the terrorist attacks in Paris.

The players and 13,000 spectators observed a minute of silence during the opening ceremony for the victims of the deadly attacks in the French capital. Due to the attacks, Czech President Milos Zeman canceled his visit to the final to attend a meeting of the country’s security council.

“As to everyone, it’s a big shock,” Sharapova said about the attacks. “It’s very sad. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s obviously tough to see the news, the pictures.”

Sharapova, who helped Russia win their last title in 2008 but was playing in her first final, wasted two match points at 5-3, and converted the third one on serve when Pliskova’s backhand went long.

She struggled at times on serve, hitting nine double faults, but compensated with 28 winners to Pliskova’s 11 in their first encounter.

“I didn’t serve my best, something I have to improve for tomorrow, but overall I am very happy that I could win,” Sharapova said.

Pliskova, ranked No. 11, went 2-0 up in the second set, but fourth-ranked Sharapova used strong returns to fight back, winning four straight games. She had to cope with another scare at 4-3, holding from 0-40, and pumped her fist when she won the game with a powerful forehand winner.

“I had my chances,” Pliskova said. “I should have played better.”

Earlier, Kvitova won the opener when Pavlyuchenkova conceded on a double fault.

Kvitova, who has led the Czech Republic to three Fed Cup titles in the past four years, was not able to find her game in the first set before staging a comeback.

“I was nervous,” she said. “It was difficult. I was trying to hold my serve in the second set and then I had an opportunity to break her. That game was really key for the second set, and maybe for the match.”

It took Kvitova 10 break points to finally break the Russian for the first time, in the second game of the second set. Another break came for 4-0 when Pavlyuchenkova double-faulted.

Kvitova found her rhythm with her typical fierce groundstrokes to dominate the rest of the match, and improve to 7-3 against her opponent and 26-6 in Fed Cup singles.

“Overall, I wasn’t playing bad,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “Just, she found her game, she started to hit crazy strokes, and then I was under pressure.”

Yesterday’s reverse singles begin with Kvitova playing Sharapova, followed by Pliskova taking on Pavlyuchenkova.

“The last match of the season, you have to give everything that you have,” Sharapova said. “That’s the type of match you wanna see at the Fed Cup final.”

Sharapova has positive win-loss records against Kvitova, but the Czech defeated her 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) in the WTA Finals last month.

In doubles, Czech duo Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova are set to play Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.

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