Russia had the Czech Republic right where they wanted them. But they couldn’t close out the defending champions. Maria Sharapova did what she was brought in to do, getting two wins and taking out the Czech Republic’s top gun, Petra Kvitova, in rubber #3 to put Russia up 2-1 in the 2015 Fed Cup final. Russia would have two shots at taking the crown, in rubber #4 against the young Czech star Karolina Pliskova and in the doubles, with one of the top teams in the world, Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, scheduled to play. But Karolina showed grit that belied her relative Fed Cup inexperience in pressure situations, stepping up to win not only her singles rubber to even the Final at 2-2 but also teaming up with Barbora Strycova to take down Vesnina and doubles replacement Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Makarova still has not played since the US Open) in 3 sets to give the Czechs a 3-2 victory. With their backs against the wall and little room for error, the Czech Republic showed why they have won back to back Fed Cup titles and 4 of the last 5 Fed Cup titles. It’s also their 9th title overall. Only the United States has won more with 17. However, the Americans have not won since 2000. The backbone of the Czech squad the past 5 years has been Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova. Not this day. It was Karolina Pliskova who took the spotlight. I don’t think this group of players will catch the US record, but with Petra only 25 and Karolina only 23, coupled with how much Fed Cup means to the Czech squad, this is a team that could win anywhere from 3 to 6 more together if they can stay healthy.
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MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 3-6 6-4 6-2 vs Petra Kvitova)
KAROLINA PLISKOVA (won 6-3 6-4 vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova)
KAROLINA PLISKOVA/BARBORA STRYCOVA (won 4-6 6-3 6-2 vs Elena Vesnina/Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova)
CZECH REPUBLIC, 2015 FED CUP CHAMPIONS