Czechs, Russians Set Fed Cup Final Date
Published April 17, 2011 06:24
The Czech Republic and Russia will do battle in the final of the 2011 Fed Cup, after both nations secured wins in their respective semifinals on Sunday. While the Russians, who will host the November showdown in Moscow, completed a 5-0 whitewash of Italy, the Czechs went down to the wire against Belgium.
With the tie locked at 2-2 after all the singles had been played, Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova scored the decisive victory in the doubles rubber, beating Yanina Wickmayer and Kirsten Flipkens, 64 64. Earlier in the day, Wickmayer had been beaten by Petra Kvitova in three sets, 57 64 62; Flipkens kept the home side in the hunt with a 62 63 win over Zahlavova Strycova.
Until today, the Czech Republic had never reached the final of the Fed Cup. As Czechoslovakia they were a force in the 1980s, winning the team event four times in six years. But since separating from their Slovak cousins and becoming an independent nation in 1994, the team's best results have been semifinal showings in each of the last two years.
"I'm not going to lie, it was in my mind the two semifinals that we lost before," said Benesova. "This time, though, I just knew we were going to win. I'm so excited." Zahlavova Strycova added: "Everything was in my head. The lows of losing to Kirsten, and then this high. This is the best feeling. It's a great achievement for Czech Republic and for the whole team. We've worked so hard for this victory."
Meantime, in Moscow, Vera Zvonareva needed just one hour 14 minutes to seal Russia's happy fate, beating Roberta Vinci 64 62 to give her side an unassailable 3-0 lead.
"I think this is one of the biggest emotions of my life," said the world No.3. "I haven't played for my country for two years and I really wanted to give this match to my team."
Vinci, who boasts a perfect unbeaten record in Fed Cup doubles, had been promoted to the defending champion team's No.1 singles player in the absence of Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta. Italian No.2 Sara Errani duly pushed Anastasia Pavluchenkova to two tie-breaks, 76(5) 76(4); Pavlyuchenkova then combined with Ekaterina Makarova to beat Alberta Brianti and Maria Elena Camerin in straight sets.
Elsewhere, the biggest upset of the World Group play-offs saw Ukraine save match points in the pivotal doubles rubber to beat Australia 3-2 in Melbourne. Less surprising, but no less painful for the vanquished, was Spain's 4-1 defeat of France, who are now relegated from the World Group for the first time in the competition's history.
Germany gained promotion to the World Group at the expense of the United States, who pocketed just one set all weekend in Stuttgart. And in the cliffhanger of the round, Jelena Jankovic and Alexandra Krunic secured Serbia an historic place among the elite eight when they beat Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova and Magdalena Rybarikova in the decisive doubles, 26 75 97.
Belarus, Slovenia and Switzerland all secured berths in World Group II, at the expense of Estonia, Canada and Sweden, respectively.