The Czech Republic has been the dominant team in the Fed Cup in the last eight years or so, winning five of the last seven titles and looking good to add another one on Sunday after taking a 2-0 lead over the defending champions USA in front of the packed O2 Arena in Prague! Kathy Rinaldi couldn't count on Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Williams sisters, traveling to Prague with the best possible team she could gather but with no big expectations against such strong rivals and the crowd they have.
Karolina Pliskova was unable to play for her country after an injury she suffered during the WTA Finals in Singapore and we haven't seen Petra Kvitova on the court today as well, with Barbora Strycova kicking off the action with a 6-7 6-1 6-4 win over the debutant Sofia Kenin in two hours and 43 minutes. The American teenager gave her best to earn her first Fed Cup win but she had no strength for one last push in the deciding set, handing Strycova her 22nd Fed Cup triumph (she made a debut when Sofia was three-year-old).
The Czech won seven points more than her rival, scoring seven breaks from 11 chances while giving her serve away four times, recovering after losing the opening set to control the scoreboard in the rest of the match. Strycova saved a break point in game two to break the youngster's serve in the game that followed before Sofia broke back in game six with a backhand down the line winner.
They traded breaks in games seven and eight as well to stay neck and neck and four good holds sent them into a tie break that Kenin won 7-5 after four mini-breaks and more than 60 minutes of play. A home player made a great recovery in the second set, fending off all six break points she faced in three straight games and earning breaks in games two and six before closing it with a service winner at 5-1 to gain the momentum and gain an even bigger support from the stands.
Kein lost the ground completely and she found herself 4-1 down in the decider after suffering breaks in games one and five, with four straight breaks on both sided that kept her in front. Serving for the win at 5-4, Strycova sealed the deal with a backhand volley winner to deliver the first point for the Czech Republic.
The 22-year-old Katerina Siniakova has completed a perfect day for the Czech team, beating Alison Riske 6-3 7-6 in an hour and 38 minutes for her second Fed Cup win over the Americans after toppling Shelby Rogers a year ago in the semi-final. Both players had their chances but it was Siniakova who played better in the deciding moments to bring the match home in straight sets and push the Czech Republic a win away from another Fed Cup crown.
Riske grabbed three breaks from five chances but that wasn't enough at least for a set, having to play against seven break points and suffering four breaks. The returners had the opportunities in the first four games of the match and Siniakova converted one in the fourth game to open a 4-1 lead, only to get broken at love in game seven and keep Riske in contention.
The American couldn't stay in touch for too long, though, giving her serve away in the eighth game and allowing Katerina to close the opener with a hold at 15 in game nine. They traded breaks in the fourth and fifth games of the second set and again at 5-5, with Siniakova missing a chance to cross the finish line on own serve in game 12.
Despite that late break that kept her in the match, Riske was unable to play on the same level in the tie break, losing three points on serve against the rival who stayed focused behind her initial shot to clinch the breaker 7-2 and send the Czech Republic 2-0 up before the second day on Sunday. Saturday's results: