PRAGUE – Veteran Barbora Strycova battled past debutant Sofia Kenin of the United States 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4 Saturday to give the Czech Republic a 1-0 lead in the Fed Cup final.
The 32-year-old achieved a career first in the last appearance of her 16-year career in women’s tennis’ premier international team competition, having never won a singles match after losing the first set in 19 previous Fed Cup ties.
“It’s funny because it’s her first tie and my last one. For me it was a lot of emotions. I fought for every ball, and I’m so happy I could win today in front of this crowd – it means a lot to me,” the Fed Cup Web site cited Strycova as saying following her victory at Prague’s O2 Arena.
Strycova raced out to a 3-1 lead at the start of the match, but the 19-year-old Kenin twice fought back from a break down and finally won the first set in a tiebreaker after just over an hour of play.
The momentum, however, shifted in the second set as Strycova stepped up her aggressiveness, fended off all six break points she faced and went two-for-three on break-point opportunities.
Kenin offered more resistance in breaking Strycova twice in the decider, but she dropped three more service games to fall to defeat in just under two hours and 45 minutes.
A second singles rubber pitting Czech Katerina Siniakova against American Alison Riske will be played on Saturday.
The final will then continue on Sunday when Siniakova takes on Kenin; if necessary, a fourth singles match will be played between Strycova and Riske.
If the teams are tied at 2-2, the match will be decided by a doubles match Sunday in which the Czech duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Siniakova will take on the US team of Danielle Collins and Nicole Melichar.