Lucie Safarova helps Czech Republic clinch Fed Cup final
The Czech Republic retained its Fed Cup title Sunday when Lucie Safarova routed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-1, 6-1 for an unassailable 3-1 lead against the first-time finalists.
Safarova won the second reverse singles in the best-of-five series. She captured the match against a former No. 1-ranked player with a forehand on her second match point before an ecstatic sell-out home crowd on the hard court at O2 Arena. The Czech players danced on the court while fans celebrated with Mexican waves.
"It's hard to describe how I feel. I played an unbelievable game," Safarova said. "I desperately wanted to win and I'm really delighted. It's fantastic to win at home, in Prague. I played one of the best matches of my career."
The Czechs are the third country in a row to successfully defend the Fed Cup title. Russia won in 2007-08 and Italy 2009-10.
The Czechs took a 2-0 lead after the opening singles Saturday, but Ana Ivanovic made it 2-1 Sunday by beating Petra Kvitova 6-3, 7-5. It was the first loss for Kvitova after 11 straight Fed Cup singles wins.
"To win the Fed Cup at home in front of the home crowd, that's the best you can experience in your tennis career," Kvitova said. "It's something special. To celebrate with the Czech fans, it's something money can't buy."
The 17th-ranked Safarova hit 32 winners. She saved two break points before racing to a 4-0 lead in the first set, and broke Jankovic twice in the second to open up a 5-1 advantage.
Jankovic had to be treated between the sets for a back injury.
"I'm really very sorry for my team that I wasn't able to be at 100 per cent today," Jankovic said, unable to hold back tears. "I tried my best on the court but it wasn't good enough. I wasn't able to move properly. Throughout the match, it was getting worse and worse."
The Czechs won their first title last year since Czechoslovakia's split in 1993. Czechoslovakia won five times, including three straight from 1983-85.
"Lucie needs to bottle this feeling and play like this at regular tournaments! A hero is born," tweeted Martina Navratilova, who won the Fed Cup with Czechoslovakia and later the United States.
"I don't feel like a hero," Safarova said. "It's a team competition. We all contributed."
Despite the loss, Serbia has enjoyed its best Fed Cup season as an independent nation, winning away againstr Belgium and Russia to reach the final.
"It's a big success for the Serbian team to be in the final, to be second in the world. I'm very proud of my team," Jankovic said.
In the first reverse singles, Ivanovic beat Kvitova, who recovered just in time from the bronchitis that forced her to withdraw from last week's WTA Championships.
The Czech player struggled with her serve and was broken in the fifth game of the opening set. Ivanovic dominated with her strong returning and broke her opponent again in the ninth game, converting her seventh set point with a drop shot at the net.
Kvitova came back in the second set with her only break of serve in the ninth game but was unable to hold her serve in the final game.