Czechs lead defending champ US 2-0 in Fed Cup final
PRAGUE (AP) — Barbora Strycova and Katerina Siniakova won their singles for the Czech Republic to take a commanding 2-0 over the defending champion United States in the Fed Cup final on Saturday.
Strycova rallied from a set down to defeat Sofia Kenin 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4.
Siniakova stretched the advantage by dispatching Alison Riske 6-3, 7-6 (2) to the delight of more than 14,000 fans at Prague’s O2 Arena.
“It couldn’t be better,” Siniakova said. “But it’s not finished yet and we need to be ready for tomorrow. We need to stay focused and I believe that we will win.”
The Czechs are one win away from their sixth title in eight years.
U.S. captain captain Kathy Rinaldi gave credit to the Czech players but said, “I really think we could have been up 2-0, too.
“It was just a day of missed opportunities in my opinion. Anything can happen in the Fed Cup and tomorrow’s another day.”
To win, the 18-time champion U.S. would have to become the first team to come back from 2-0 down in the final.
In Sunday’s reverse singles, Kenin will go against Siniakova, and Riske will meet Strycova.
In doubles, the last match of the final, Riske and Danielle Collins are scheduled to meet No. 1-ranked pair Barbora Krejcikova and Siniakova on the indoor hard-court.
Siniakova broke Riske for 6-5 in the second set but the 63rd -ranked American forced a tiebreaker.
The Czech dominated it, converting the second match point when Riske sent a backhand wide.
“I was just enjoying the moment and trying to play my game,” Siniakova said. “I was enjoying the atmosphere and everything. It was amazing for me.”
“We can only be aggressive and go after it tomorrow,” Riske said.
Riske is the only player on the U.S. team who has previously played in the Fed Cup. The Williams sisters, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys all withdrew.
The Czechs are weakened, too, missing their two top-10 players. Karolina Pliskova was ruled out due to injuries and Petra Kvitova due to illness.
Another mainstay on the Czech Fed Cup team in recent years, Lucie Safarova, announced on Saturday she will retire from tennis after the Australian Open because of health problems. She has won four Fed Cups.
Playing in her last tie, the 32-year-old Strycova won her match with a backhand winner at the net on her first match point to improve to 11-7 in Fed Cup singles.
“I’m so happy that I could win today in front of such a crowd,” Strycova said. “It’s funny because it’s her (Kenin) first one, and this is my last one, so for me it was a lot of emotions.”
Both players made 32 unforced errors and the American had 23 winners — two more than Strycova — but the Czech made her experience count in the decisive points.
“For my Fed Cup debut, I was pretty nervous but I was able to handle it once I stepped on the court,” Kenin said. “The atmosphere was just incredible.”