Czech and France tied after Fed Cup final opening thriller

 

By Jake Davies

  • Both No.1 players win in the opening rubbers of Fed Cup Final
  • Karolina Pliskova defeats Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 4-6 16-14
  • Caroline Garcia defeats Petra Kvitova 7-6 (8) 6-3
  • Click on featured players for stats by TennisAbstract.com
STRASBOURG, FRANCE – Day One of the Fed cup final has served up a thriller so far, with the reverse singles to come.

 

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Karolina Pliskova defeats Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 4-6 16-14

One of the classic Fed Cup matches took place to open proceedings at this year’s Fed Cup final tie in Strasbourg. US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova opened up against the talented Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic.

From the very beginning it was clear to see that the courts in Strasbourg rewarded aggressive and positive tennis. In recent years, we have seen the Czech Fed Cup team dominate on a very fast indoor court in Prague, and this court did not look too dissimilar to that court in terms of the speed of the court.

Pliskova started off the match the better of the two players as she broke Mladenovic’s serve in the first game of the match. The Czech eventually won the first set by breaking the Mladenovic serve three times, taking the set 6-3.

Neither player covered themselves in glory behind their first and second serves. Both were nervy when trying to come to terms with the pressure involved with a Fed Cup Final.

Pliskova hit four double faults in just the one service game and struggled to find the rhythm behind her biggest weapon, which gave Mladenovic the window of opportunity to level the match. Mladenovic levelled the rubber and sent the match into a third set 6-4.

It has been an extremely draining and exhausting season for many of the players, especially those competing in the Fed Cup Final. Pliskova played the WTA Finals in singles, while Mladenovic had played the same event in the doubles competition, so they both had a lot of tennis in their legs over the stretch of a very long calendar.

In the third set, the match started to become a lot more enticing and turned into a very watchable encounter between two of the better players that the WTA has to offer in both singles and doubles. Pliskova started to find a lot of joy by attacking the Mladenovic backhand and moving towards the net.

Mladenovic did not know how to counter that particular ploy – Pliskova found herself serving for the set, but little did we know that this match was just at it’s beginning. Mladenovic was not going to go down without a serious fight.

Mladenovic, who is a three-time doubles Grand Slam winner in her own right, levelled the match at 5-5. The Frenchwoman, like she usually does, adopted a number of drop shots to reel Pliskova in on her terms, which worked on occasions. The problem with that particular shot is that Mladenovic does have a tendency to overplay it when she is in a great position in the rally.

It was level at 9-9 in the deciding set. Mladenovic signalled that she would need to see the trainer before she continued, which forced the Czech Fed Cup captain Petr Pala out of his seat. The controversy in tennis where a player takes a medical time out before their opponent serves reappeared in one of the biggest stages of professional tennis.

The Czech team had a fair point. Pliskova had just missed out on two match points on Mladenovic’s serve, so she was riding the momentum and wanted to take advantage of her opponent when given the opportunity. It is another considerably grey area in tennis as some suggested that Mladenovic was in fact cramping, which is not allowed to be treated as part of a three-minute medical time out.

Mladenovic showed a lot of commitment to the cause and even served for the match at 12-11 in the third set, but Pliskova outlasted her opponent to win the match 16-14 in one of the matches to savour in the 2016 season.

The final set signified the longest set of a Fed Cup final match in terms of games played. The one big question is whether we will see the likes of Alize Cornet or Barbora Strycova drafted in because of the effects of such a gruelling match in the opening rubber. Both Pala and Amelie Mauresmo would have integral parts to play as the Fed Cup Final moved into it’s second day, but those decisions would be put on hold until the conclusion of the second rubber.

 

Caroline Garcia defeats Petra Kvitova 7-6 (8) 6-3

It has definitely been a long road to the Top 25 of the women’s game for Caroline Garcia. She has been touted as one of France’s finest products for quite some time, following a valiant effort as a wild card in the 2011 French Open, where she lost narrowly to Maria Sharapova.

Garcia put on quite the show in the second singles rubber of the Fed Cup Final against Petra Kvitova. Often when players come up against the flat-striking Czech, they can retreat and curl up in their shell because of the velocity of the ball-striking from Kvitova. Garcia gave the two-time Grand Slam champion as good as she got today.

Feeding off the energy of the French crowd has not always come naturally to the 23-year-old Garcia. She has faltered time after time in the past at Roland Garros and lost some tight matches. This win over Kvitova could be the catalyst to even greater performances in the future and give her that additional belief that she can pull through the difficult moments.

Kvitova was nursing a foot injury, which was heavily taped going into the match. This could play a huge part in whether Kvitova gets utilised in the upcoming reverse singles.

Garcia stormed to victory to post one of the best singles wins of her young career, but the question remains whether she can retain that same level of performance in her next singles match. That is something she has struggled to come to terms with in notable phases of her career thus far. The World No.23 ultimately ensures that France remain in the tie up until the fourth rubber at least, which not many would have forecast coming into the Fed Cup final.

 

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