The Czech Republic has secured its eleventh Fed Cup by BNP Paribas title, with a 3-0 win over the United States in Prague, earning the nation a sixth title in the last eight years.
With the absence of some of the game’s top names, some pundits were predicting a lacklustre final, however it was anything but. Missing from the American team were Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Coco Vandeweghe and the Williams sisters. On the Czech side, Karolina Pliskova was injured and watched from home. Petra Kvitova, though ill and having been an integral part of the team, was in attendance at the Prague O2 Arena to show her support.
After the opening day’s play the Czechs went to bed on a high, holding a 2-0 lead. Earlier Barbora Strycova had come back from a one set deficit to defeat teen Sofia Kenin, playing her first ever Fed Cup match, 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4. Afterwards, Katerina Siniakova took care of Alison Riske 6-3 7-6(2).
Siniakova was back on court in Sunday’s first reverse singles match against Kenin. It was an arduous match, played with fervour and grit. Both players gave their all as Siniakova struck first, taking the first set 7-5. Kenin, despite the circumstances, did not seem fazed by the boisterous home crowd and took the second set by the same scoreline and went on to forge a 4-1 lead in the third. Siniakova brought it back, but at 5-4 Kenin was serving for the match yet couldn't close it out, making two errors to allow the Czech to level at 5-5. At 0-40 up on Siniakova’s serve, Kenin saw yet another opportunity slip away. Siniakova held on to get her nose in front 6-5, getting back as many balls as she could and not giving away any free points. This forced a depleted Kenin to go for more and eventually she buckled, sending the ball into the doubles alley on Siniakova’s second match point. Jubilation and smiles on one side of the net were contrasted with despondency and tears on the other. Siniakova had toppled Kenin 7-5 5-7 7-5 in 3 hours and 45 minutes to give the Czechs an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
On an individual level, Petra Kvitova won the Fed Cup Heart Award, voted for by the fans. She also becomes the most prolific European winner of the competition, as she earns her sixth Fed Cup as part of the Czech team. This puts her ahead of Spanish legends Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez, who won five Fed Cups between 1991 and 1998.
The two most successful nations in this competition have now faced off for a thirteenth time, with the Head-to-Head now standing at 10-3 in favour of the Americans. The last time the Czechs beat the Americans was in 1985. The victory against their old tennis foes has been a long time coming but highlights how dominant the Czechs have been in recent years, winning in 2011-2, 2014-6 and now in 2018. There is still some way to go for the Czechs to catch the US record of 18 Fed Cup titles though.
When questioned about the dominance of the Czech team in recent years, coach Peter Pala claimed that “we have great depth,” and said that the Czechs “are fortunate that we have so many players that are willing to play.”