U.S. trails Czech Republic in
2018 Fed Cup final
Pat Mitsch | November 10, 2018
The Czech Republic wasted none of its advantages on Saturday to sweep both Day 1 singles matches and take a 2-0 lead over the U.S. in the 2018 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas final in Prague.
In front of a sold-out crowd inside the 10,700-seat O2 Arena, the Czechs saw Fed Cup veteran and No. 33-ranked Barbora Strycova defeat 19-year old rookie Sofia Kenin, 6-7, 6-1, 6-4, then No. 31 Katerina Siniakova outlast No. 63 Alison Riske, 6-4, 7-6. The Czechs can now clinch their sixth Fed Cup title in the last eight years by winning one of the three scheduled matches on Sunday, with world No. 7 Petra Kvitova as an available singles substitute.
Though the odds of a U.S. comeback are long – an American team has never come back from 0-2 down since the current home-and-home format took hold in 1995 – it'll likely have some confidence in turning to Kenin for Sunday’s first singles match, scheduled against Siniakova.
The teenager from Pembroke Pines, Fla., drew praise from Czech captain Petr Pala for how she competed in her Fed Cup debut on Saturday, winning the first set and nearly coming back from 5-2 down in the third before the two-time Fed Cup champion Strycova steadied her hand.
“Barbora, as her last Fed Cup, so she really want to do well, and I think it was great match,” Pala said. “Sofia played better throughout the whole match than I expected, so she showed how good she can become in the future, because she was playing really well and didn’t get bothered as my points as I was hoping for. So that was a big one.”
The 32-year old Strycova, who announced prior to this tie that it would be her last as a member of the Czech Fed Cup Team, converted 7 of 11 break-point chances compared to Kenin’s 4-for-11 mark and lived up to her No. 5 doubles world ranking, winning seven of 12 net points, compared to 1-for-3 from the American.
“She’s got tremendous hands,” Kenin (pictured above) said. “She’s obviously one of the best doubles players, and she’s got amazing movement. There were some points where I was like, “Oh my god, how are you still getting that ball back?” But I knew this was going to be a tough match. She’s a really good player, and obviously at the net, as you saw … We both gave it all out there. It could have been anyone’s match, but it was hers, so credit to her.”
Siniakova, meanwhile, flashed her backhand to beat Riske on a comfortable surface for the American – an indoor hard court – to the tune of nine backhand winners, and will look to ride that momentum into Sunday’s first singles match, vs. Kenin, and potentially clinch the title for her country.
“I played a bit not to lose, and she didn’t,” Riske said. “Credit to her, she played a solid match, and I think I could have delivered my game a little bit better than I did.”
Each team captain can make substitutions to their nominations for Sundayup to one hour before the start of the day’s matches, though, with Kvitova – a five-time Fed Cup champion who has been sick all week – a potential substitution.
“I think all credit to the Czech players. They were awesome today,” U.S. Captain Kathy Rinaldi said. “That being said, I think we really could have been up, 2-0, too. I thought today was some great tennis. These girls laid their heart and souls out there on that court and competed. It was just a day of missed opportunities, in my opinion. But again, anything can happen in Fed Cup, and tomorrow’s another day. I’m super proud of these girls.”
Sunday’s matches will begin at noon local time (6 a.m. ET), with the two reverse singles matches followed by a possible fifth-and-decisive doubles match. A revised schedule for Sunday may take place if the Czech team clinches in the third or fourth match.