Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova battled through some immensely tough moments and overcame a valiant last-ditch defence from Angelique Kerber to claim the Fed Cup trophy for the Czech Republic.
Germany were in a huge 0-2 hole after the first day of the Fed Cup final saw Kvitova beat Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4 and Wimbledon semifinalist Lucie Safarova defeated Kerber 6-4, 6-4. There were rumours that former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki would be substituted for Kerber, but German captain Barbara Rittner stuck with the left-handed baseliner who has been so successful for her country this year. Nobody could have worked harder on the court, but Kerber’s inability to seal a lead – she served for the first set three times and led 4-1 in the third before losing both sets – proved fatal to Germany’s chances as Kvitova recorded a 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4 victory.
Kerber, ranked no. 10 and unable to qualify for the WTA Finals Singapore this year, had to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to Safarova on Saturday swiftly if she was to keep Germany’s chances alive and she hit the front first, leadin 4-2 in the first set after Kvitova committed 20 unforced errors in the first six games.
Kerber – who has failed to win a title in 2014 despite appearing in four WTA Tour finals – served for the first set no less than three times and was broken each time, with Kvitova finally landing a big return and short backhand winner to take the set to a tiebreak. Kvitova strung some exquisite points together, forcing a backhand error from Kerber to take the minibreak lead and backing it up to lead 4-1 with some mammoth forehands, but gave up an error on her forehand to be pegged back to 4-4.
The two-time Wimbledon champion, however, came up with an extraordinary shot, backing up a strong return with an improvised drop volley pick-up as she charged the net to set up set points at 6-4 and converted shortly as she curled her left-handed forehand into the corner.
Kvitova looked to have found her stride as she produced a stunning game to break to love to open the second set and had won 13 of 14 points as she broke again to lead 3-0. But Kerber, putting allegations of a broken spirit to scorn, roared back to 3-3 and a distracted Kvitova dropped serve once more to fall behind.
By the time Kerber lead 2-0 in the third set she had won eight of the last nine games, but Kvitova was not done yet either and nor was this extraordinary match. Kvitova broke to get back on serve at 3-4, then landed a big cross-court return to set up break point at 4-4 and found another magical forehand winner to put herself one game from the match and her country one game from the trophy.
It wasn’t easy to serve it out, not that anyone would have watched the match would have expected it to be so. Dogged retrieving from the athletic Kerber earned her the first point before Kvitova found some big punches to lead 40-15 after an ace – only to double-fault and land a makeable forehand in the net before she finally closed it out to the delight of her team and the Prague crowd.
It’s the third Fed Cup title in four years for the Czech Republic after back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 and sees Safarova and especially Kvitova ending banner seasons on the highest of high notes.