STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – Barbora Strycova beat Alize Cornet 6-2 7-6(4) to put defending champions Czech Republic level at 2-2 against hosts France and send the Fed Cup final into a doubles decider on Sunday.
Strycova raced through the opening set and rallied from 4-1 down in the second to keep alive her team’s hopes of claiming a fifth title in six years.
Earlier, Caroline Garcia had put France ahead with an impressive 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory over world number six Karolina Pliskova.
The world number 23 had already earned Amelie Mauresmo’s team the first point against double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova before Pliskova leveled with an epic win against Kristina Mladenovic on Saturday.
Kvitova and Mladenovic were due to play the second reverse singles but they were replaced by Strycova and Cornet.
Mladenovic and Garcia, the best doubles pair in the world, will team up against Strycova and Pliskova.
World number 20 Strycova was the first to hold serve, for 3-1, and she did not look back in the opening set as Cornet struggled to find her pace.
The Frenchwoman, ranked 46th, took advantage of a double fault to break for 2-0 in the second. She went 4-1 up but Strycova refused to buckle and won four games in a row to serve for the match.
Cornet broke back but her opponent played well in the tiebreak.
In the day’s opener, after a minute of applause in memory of the 130 people who were killed in the Paris attack one year ago, Garcia put France within one point of their first title since 2003.
Garcia got off to a great start, breaking for 3-1 thanks to some aggressive tennis.
The Frenchwoman held her ground and gave little breathing space to her opponent, bagging the opening set on her first opportunity when Pliskova’s backhand sailed long.
Garcia, however, lost focus in the second set, allowing Pliskova to race to a 3-0 lead. The local favorite saved three break points in the sixth game as the U.S. Open finalist played with more accuracy and then fought off two set points in the eighth.
The Czech served it out in the following game, leveling the match with a crosscourt forehand winner.
Pliskova, however, came under pressure on her serve in the decider and she cracked in the eighth game, conceding a break when Garcia, who then served it out, fired a splendid return winner.
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon)