The Czech Republic is one win away from retaining the Fed Cup after Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova won the opening singles in straight sets against first-time finalist Serbia on Saturday.
Safarova gave the Czechs a flying start on the indoor hard-court at the O2 Arena by beating Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-3, and Kvitova doubled the advantage with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Jelena Jankovic.
The eighth-ranked Kvitova, who led the Czechs to victory over Russia in the final last year, pumped her fist after securing her 11th consecutive victory in Fed Cup singles. She showed no sign of the bronchitis that forced her to withdraw from last week’s WTA Championships.
”Unbelievable,” said Kvitova, who hit 28 winners compared to 15 by Jankovic.
”Actually, I was surprised by how I played. I didn’t know what I can expect from myself on the court.”
It was the first Fed Cup loss in two years for Jankovic, a former No. 1.
Kvitova double-faulted to drop serve in the fifth game before breaking twice to take the first set. Applying her big forehand and serve, she then raced to 5-0 in the second. She converted her second match point when Jankovic’s backhand sailed long.
”She was really on a roll,” Jankovic said about Kvitova. ”I had chances in the first set but she came up with really some unbelievable shots. There was nothing I could do at times. She had a great day.”
Kvitova could clinch the title on Sunday in the first reverse singles match against Ivanovic. The Serb leads their head-to-head record 3-1, but Kvitova won their last meeting in the Australian Open.
”She’s got nothing to lose,” Kvitova said about Ivanovic. ”But I boosted my confidence and hope to succeed again.”
Safarova is also scheduled to take on Jankovic, then the final ends with the Czech pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, who reached the U.S. Open and Wimbledon finals this season, against Bojana Jovanovski and Aleksandra Krunic.
Safarova was pleased to win the opener before an ecstatic sell-out home crowd. She improved to 4-2 against Ivanovic.
”After I lost both matches in the final last year, I desperately wanted to win,” Safarova said. ”We were both nervous at the start but I got rid of it. I was improving throughout the match. It was very important to win.”
Ivanovic, another former No. 1, looked frustrated and was unable to find her rhythm throughout their match, hitting eight double-faults and making 32 unforced errors.
”I’m very very disappointed that I didn’t manage to get the first point for our team,” she said. ”I had plenty of opportunities but I just wasn’t executing when it was important. It was very frustrating.”
The Czechs won their first title last year since Czechoslovakia’s split in 1993. Czechoslovakia won five times, including three straight from 1983-85.