By Chris Oddo | Sunday November 13, 2016
The Czechs rallied to win the last two rubbers and clinch their fifth Fed Cup title in six years in Strasbourg.
Photo Source: Reuters
The Czechs were given all they could handle by an inspired French side this weekend in Strasbourg, but in the end the Fed Cup juggernauts drew upon their depth and wealth of experience to edge out Les Bleus in a deciding fifth rubber.
With the win, Pala becomes the winningest coach in Fed Cup history, and the first to win five titles.
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With the victory, the Czechs become the first team to complete a Fed Cup title three-peat since 1995.
Things seemed to be moving decidedly in the French favor early on Sunday after Caroline Garcia produced an upset victory over Karolina Pliskova, but when a pair of stunning roster substitutions pitted two less heralded players against one another in the fourth rubber, it was the cagey, intense Strycova who rose to the challenge by defeating Alizé Cornet.
"The secret was to go out there and fight for every point,” Strycova later said of her approach to Sunday’s tense battles. “We fought until the end.”
Czech Captain Petr Pala later said Kvitova was too unfit to play; French captain Amelie Mauresmo, somewhat controversially, countered with Cornet in order to rest Mladenovic for what may come.
The 30-year-old, a veteran of 16 Fed Cup ties and a role player in each of her nation’s previous four title runs, seemed to relish the center stage experience. She battled past Cornet, 6-2, 7-6(4), before pairing with Pliskova in a fantastic doubles rubber that saw the team emerge victorious, 7-5, 7-5.
Garcia and Mladenovic put up a brave effort, and even rallied from a break down to level at 4-all in set two, but the Czechs broke for 6-5 before Strycova served out the victory.
The Czechs are the first team to three-peat as Fed Cup champions since Spain did so between 1993-1995, and they have now won five of the last six titles at the international team competition.
They have won their last four Fed Cup ties in a deciding fifth rubber, with Strycova and Pliskova winning three of the four.