Pliskova beats Pavlyuchenkova to level Fed Cup final
PRAGUE (AP) Karolina Pliskova kept defending champion Czech Republic in the Fed Cup final by defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-4 in the second reverse singles on Sunday to level the match at 2-2.
Earlier, Maria Sharapova came from a set down to beat Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the first reverse singles to give Russia a 2-1 lead.
The best-of-five series will be decided in the doubles with Pliskova to team up with Barbora Strycova to play Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina.
Pliskova got the decisive break in the ninth game of the second set and closed out with a service winner to delight 13,000 cheering fans at Prague's O2 Arena, where security has been stepped up following the terrorist attacks in Paris.
''It's definitely one of my biggest wins of my career,'' said the 23-year-old rising star of the Czech tennis. ''I really enjoyed the match and I'm really happy that I won.''
Pliskova converted her only break point in the first set for a 5-3 lead before serving it out with a forehand winner to improve her Fed Cup singles record to 3-1.
In an earlier matchup of two top-10 players, the fourth-ranked Sharapova went 5-2 up in the final set against Kvitova before closing out with a forehand winner.
''Personally, it's an incredible achievement for me because I've never been in the Fed Cup final,'' Sharapova said. ''And I won two of my matches.''
In Saturday's singles, Kvitova put the host team ahead by beating Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 before Sharapova leveled the series by defeating Pliskova 6-3, 6-4.
Sharapova improved her head-to-head record against Kvitova to 7-4.
''I felt that once I got the second set I got the energy back,'' the Russian said.
Kvitova attacked with her big forehand early, putting Sharapova under pressure.
''It hurts,'' Kvitova said. ''But I know I did all I could. It was just not enough.''
The Czech player broke Sharapova in the opening game and again in the final game of the first set when the Russian hit the net with a forehand volley.
''Petra played unbelievable in the first set. She was so aggressive, hitting really deep all the strokes. I didn't have the momentum in the first set,'' Sharapova said.