Fed Cup — Czech Republic builds 2-0 lead in first-round World Group match


PRAGUE — Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Barbora Strycova won the opening singles matches Saturday to give the Czech Republic a commanding 2-0 lead over Switzerland in the first round of the Fed Cup.

Kvitova put the Czechs ahead after she overcame a second-set scare to beat Viktorija Golubic 6-2, 1-6, 6-3. Strycova doubled the advantage with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Belinda Bencic to put the Czechs one win away from their 10th straight Fed Cup semifinals.

Strycova jumped 4-1 up in the second set before Bencic, the former top 10 player, fought back briefly to reduce the lead to 4-3.

Strycova served the match out on an indoor hard court at Prague’s O2 Arena, winning with her first match point due to Bencic’s 23rd unforced error.

“It was a solid game from me,” Strycova said. “I’m grateful for the point, it’s pretty important.”

Earlier, the 100th-ranked Golubic double-faulted to drop her serve in the eighth game of the final set, allowing the 21st-ranked Kvitova to serve out the match. The Czech converted her first match point with a backhand volley at the net.

Kvitova hit 32 winners on the way to victory compared to Golubic’s 14.

“It was up and down,” said Kvitova, who improved to 27-10 in Fed Cup singles. “I started well and she looked a bit nervous at first. But I struggled physically and also mentally in the second.”

Kvitova has returned to Fed Cup action for the first time since recovering from injuries in a knife attack at her home in December 2016. She won in St. Petersburg, Russia, this month, beating two top-10 players.

The reverse singles and the doubles closer are scheduled for Sunday.

In other Fed Cup first-round World Group matches Saturday:

Kristina Mladenovic beat Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-4 as host France split the opening singles matches in their tie against Belgium.

The 13th-ranked Mladenovic constantly pressured Flipkens’ serve, taking five of 11 break-point chances and beating the Belgian for the second time in two career meetings.

Belgium’s Elise Mertens, ranked 20th, earlier swept aside Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 6-1 in a one-sided contest where Parmentier, ranked 91st, dropped her serve six times.

France is without Alize Cornet, who has not been selected after she missed three out-of-competition doping tests in the past year. She is under investigation by the International Tennis Federation. France is also missing seventh-ranked Caroline Garcia, who is still declining to play for France as she gives priority to her singles career.

France and Belgium are meeting for a fifth time, with France leading 3-1 overall and Belgium winning their last meeting in 2000. The winner faces the United States or the Netherlands in the semifinals in April.

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus held off Tatjana Maria, who was making her first Fed Cup appearance for Germany in seven years, as the two countries ended Day 1 tied 1-1.

Sabalenka won 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 to improve to 2-0 over her career against Maria.

Germany pulled even as Antonia Lottner won her Fed Cup debut with a 7-5, 6-4 victory against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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