Petra Kvitova came back from a set down to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and hand holders the Czech Republic a 1-0 lead over Russia in the Fed Cup final in Prague on Saturday.
Kvitova, the world number six and Czech number one, beat 28th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova on the hardcourt of Prague’s O2 Arena 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 in an hour and 44 minutes.
In Saturday’s second rubber, 11th-ranked Karolina Pliskova will face world number four Maria Sharapova in their first-ever encounter as the Czechs seek their fourth title in five years.
Following a minute’s silence for the victims of Friday’s Paris terror attacks, Kvitova got off to a stumbling start, piling up unforced errors and losing her serve to love in game three.
With Kvitova able to place only four in 10 first serves in the court, Pavlyuchenkova broke again two games later and went on to take the first set in just 34 minutes.
“She came and she played well, I didn’t really feel that she was nervous but I was nervous,” Kvitova said.
“When I stepped onto the court, I was very nervous and I was so tired, my hands didn’t fly (as) I wanted, my legs were very heavy and I couldn’t really move well.”
But the first-set flop was a perfect wake-up call for the 25-year-old Czech who converted her sixth break point in game two of the second set and powered past her helpless rival for a 6-1 win.
“I was trying to hold my serve in the second set and then I had an opportunity to break her,” said Kvitova.
“I think that game was key for the second set and maybe for the match.”
Pavlyuchenkova agreed that game was crucial as she “was a bit unlucky” to lose it.
“She started to feel more confident, she played much better, more aggressive, she broke my rhythm and I couldn’t find my game again,” said the Russian, who is now 2-7 head-to-head with Kvitova.
“I was actually in a good spirit for the whole match but Petra obviously increased her level, she was playing much better in the second.”
Kvitova, the 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon champion, retained her pace in the decider, sweeping the 24-year-old Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 again.
At the end of the third set, “I was thinking, oh gosh, I don’t want to be here anymore,” said Pavlyuchenkova.
The Czech team lead their head-to-head record with four-time Fed Cup champions Russia 3-2 — including three ties between the former Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
In the most recent encounter, the Czechs won the 2011 final in Moscow.
The Czechs have won the trophy eight times, including five victories as Czechoslovakia which went on to split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.