Garcia puts France back on track in Fed Cup final
STRASBOURG, France (AP) Caroline Garcia ensured a suspenseful second day in the Fed Cup final by downing two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 7-6 (6) 6-3 to draw France level with the defending champion Czech Republic 1-1.
Garcia's victory restored some hope in the French camp after sixth-ranked Karolina Pliskova won a marathon third set against Kristina Mladenovic to give the Czechs the first point on Saturday.
The Czechs are bidding for a fifth title in six years this weekend. They won the most recent tie between them in the semifinals last year, and are favorites to become the first team to win three consecutive Fed Cups since Spain from 1993-95.
After Kvitova came back from 2-4 down in the opener, Garcia – the No. 1 French player – prevailed in the tiebreaker by taking risks. She closed out the set on her second chance with a crosscourt backhand that Kvitova could not return.
Garcia was broken at the start of the second set but made the most of Kvitova's unforced errors to claim four consecutive games. Kvitova saved a match point with a forehand winner in the ninth game and Garcia converted her second with a shot on the baseline that surprised her Czech rival.
''Caro played a fantastic match, I had never seen her play at such a high level,'' France captain Amelie Maursemo said. ''Tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day.''
Sunday features the reverse singles, and finishes with doubles, when Alize Cornet and Pauline Parmentier face Czechs Barbora Strycova and Lucie Hradecka.
Depending on how the tie goes, Mauresmo could send out Garcia and Mladenovic in the doubles. They won the French Open, and came from a set down to win the decisive rubber against the Netherlands in the semifinals.
Pliskova, the U.S. Open runner-up, earlier recovered from a second-set blip to beat Mladenovic 6-3, 4-6, 16-14 after the French player came close to achieving a stunning comeback on the indoor hard court at Rhenus Sport arena.
Pliskova used her deep groundstrokes to take control at first but showed her nerves midway through the second set, allowing Mladenovic back into the match with a series of mistakes.
Mladenovic rallied from 5-2 down in the decider and saved two match points with two big serves, including an ace, to level at 9-9. The Frenchwoman cracked on her serve in the 30th game when she was broken at love after almost four hours.