Czechs top Belgium, reach Fed Cup final
The Czech Republic beat Belgium in the deciding doubles Sunday for a 3-2 victory and a place in the Fed Cup final.
After the teams split the reverse singles on Sunday, Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat Yanina Wickmayer and Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-4 to put the Czechs in their first final since they won the title as Czechoslovakia in 1988. They will play Russia in the final on Nov. 5-6.
As hard as they tried, the Belgians could not make up for the absence of the injured Kim Clijsters and the retirement early this year of Justine Henin.
For the Czechs, it was a final at last, after losing the semifinals the previous two years.
In a battle of each team's top player after entering the final day at 1-1, Petra Kvitova beat Wickmayer 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to bring the Czech Republic within one match of reaching the final. Then, things went against the odds, when 106th-ranked Flipkens went on to beat 49th-ranked Zahlavova Strycova 6-2, 6-3 to keep Belgium in the tie.
The Czechs had by far the better ranked team, with Benesova 18th and Zahlavova Strycova 45th in the doubles ranking and two victories already this season, compared to Wickmayer's 160th and Flipkens' 583rd position.
Still, support from the fervent crowd in the 6,000-capacity Spiroudome long kept Belgium in the tie.
Flipkens, who already outperformed herself to keep Belgium in the tie by winning her singles, couldn't do a repeat performance in the doubles.
In the first set, the teams were level until Flipkens suffered a love-game on her serve to force the breakthrough for the Czechs to lead 5-4. In her first match of the weekend, Benesova easily served out the first set.
In the second set, tension were high for both with breaks of serve. But Zahlavova Strycova especially redeemed herself for her shock loss to Flipkens with some fine play.
Wickmayer, meanwhile, twice lost her serve to let Belgium down and also netted on match point to let Benesova' strong serve prevail.