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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, November 10, 2018

 
Barbora Strycova

Veteran Barbora Strycova subdued Fed Cup debutant Sofia Kenin, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4, giving host Czech Republic the opening win in the Fed Cup final against defending champion United States.

Photo credit: Fed Cup Facebook

Determined comings and goings turned the Fed Cup final opener into a dramatic duel.

Playing the final Fed Cup tie of her career, Barbora Strycova showed fierce forward thinking and a stubborn spine.

More: Kenin Opens Fed Cup Final for U.S. 

Serving and volleying on critical points, Strycova subdued Fed Cup debutant Sofia Kenin, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4, giving host Czech Republic the opening win in the Fed Cup final against defending champion United States at the O2 Arena in Prague.




This was two hours and 47 minutes of back-and-forth battle.

Ultimately, Strycova's willingness to press the issue and take the net proved pivotal in an emotional victory before 10,700 roaring fans.

It is the first time Strycova rallied from a set down to win a Fed Cup singles match.

Pressed into action with two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova battling illness, the 32-year-old Strycova had tears streaming down her face during the national anthem.

"It's her first one and it's my last one so for me it was a lot of emotions," Strycova told Nick McCarvel afterward. "We have a very good team, but without Petra it's sometimes tougher. I fought for every ball and I'm very happy I could win before such a supportive crowd. It means a lot."

It means so much the Czech veteran was weeping before she even stepped on court knowing this is her final Fed Cup weekend.

"I was crying already in the locker room," Strycova said. "I was like 'My God I shouldn't cry on the court, but I let it go. I said somehow I just have to let it out.




"It was a lot of emotions going through my head seeing all the Czech people here it's amazing. Every point is very important. I'm very happy I could do it today."

The 19-year-old Kenin, who celebrates her 20th birthday on November 14, was down 1-3 in every set yet fought back to seize the first and pressured Strycova's serve getting to 15-30 in the final game.

A spirited Kenin rallied from a break down twice in the opening set, breaking back on an errant Strycova drop shot for 4-all.




A poised Strycova pulled off a couple of fine serve-and-volleys holding at 15 to force the tie break.

Showing superb net skills, Strycova made a sensational serve-and-stab-volley for a 2-1 tie break lead—the third straight time the Czech serve-and-volleyed wide on the deuce side.

Kenin answered with a series of deep drives reeling off three points in a row. When Strycova tried to serve-and-volley on the deuce side again, Kenin was waiting and rifled a forehand pass crosscourt for 5-2.

A daring drop shot from the American coaxed a running forehand error from Strycova giving Kenin double set point.

On her second set point, Kenin capped a 10-shot rally curling an angled backhand in the short court to take the first set of her first career Fed Cup match.




Twice down a break in the opening set, the feisty Kenin fought all the way back celebrating with a sprint to her seat and a high-five for her captain.

Exploiting a let-cord return that brought the American forward, Strycova hooked a crosscourt forehand pass breaking for a 2-0 second-set lead.




An engaged Strycova saved break point with a smash and worked her way through a tough hold wih a clenched fist for 3-0.

Deploying the serve-and-volley shrewdly again, Strycova saved her sixth break point of the second set in holding for 4-1.

A suffocating Strycova was winning the longer baseline rallies often draining errors from the teenager breaking again in the sixth game.

Slashing a serve, Strycova seized the second set as Czech fans waved a massive Czech flag in the stands. Strycova won 64 percent of points played on Kenin's first serve in the set.

Though Kenin took a bathroom break to try to regroup, Strycova refused to relinquish momentum.

Luring the teenager forehand with the short slice, Strycova kept the ball moving side-to-side breaking to start the decider with her fourth straight game.

The forehand failed Kenin in the fourth game and for the third straight set Strycova snatched a 3-1 lead.

Kenin kept fighting scoring a love break for 2-4.

Just when it seemed Strycova was stressing out, Kenin tightened up failing to convert a game point and dissolving in a three double-fault game to give back the break.

Both women showed resilience at different stages.




Bouncing back from her worst game of the match, Kenin stayed positive pulling off her second straight love break for 3-5. Kenin won eight of nine points forcing Strycova to serve for it again.

Down 15-30, Strycova showed her guts pounding away at her opponent's forehand then streaking forward to knock off a forehand volley.




On match point, Strycova serve-and-volleyed again squeezing a low backhand volley into the corner to close a fierce test.

 

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