From start to finish, the Fed Cup final between France and the Czech Republic was a battle.
By the time the 2016 edition of the Fed Cup rolled around, the two-time defending champion Czech Republic had established itself as the team to beat. However, the squad’s campaign would begin on the road against a solid Romanian team, led by now-world No. 1 Simona Halep. The Czechs escaped the Romanians and were tested again in another away encounter in Switzerland. They defeated the Swiss 3-2 to reach their third final in a row.
On the other side of the draw, France was enjoying the comforts of home. In the opening round, the hosts beat Italy 4-1. In the semifinals, the Frenchwomen beat the Dutch team on clay to reach its first final in the team competition in more than a decade.
In the first singles match, Kristina Mladenovic opened the final against US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova. The Czech captured the first set and had a 3-2 lead in the second, but ended up dropping it 6-4.
The third set proved to be one of the year’s most riveting deciders.
Pliskova went up 5-2, but Mladenovic rallied to take three games in a row. With the score 6-6 and no final-set tiebreak in Fed Cup, play kept going. Pliskova earned two match points against Mladenovic’s serve in the 18th game, but the Frenchwoman fought them off. Mladenovic served for the match at 12-11, but was broken. Pliskova finally took it 16-14 in the third, making it the longest set in Fed Cup final history.
While the French home crowd was perhaps deflated after that epic encounter, Caroline Garcia renewed their enthusiasm. She upset two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in straight sets to level the tie.
The impact of the opening rubber had an indirect result on the outcome of the reverse singles. Garcia outlasted Pliskova in three sets to stake the home team to a 2-1 lead. Barbora Strycova, filling in for Kvitova, then topped Mladenovic’s replacement Alize Cornet in straight sets to level the tie, 2-2.
It went to doubles to decide it, with Pliskova and Strycova taking on French Open champions Garcia and Mladenovic. No strangers to pressure, the Czechs won the encounter in straight sets, clinching the country’s fifth title in six years.
Congratulations to my amazing, heroic teammates @barborastrycova @karolinapliskova @lucik85 and our captain Petr Pala. FIVE FED CUP titles! France you were great hosts and finalists, thank you! When people ask why I love Fed Cup so much, it's because it's a TEAM event! So proud to be part of this incredible, history-making Czech team. Now the season is finally over, it's time to celebrate! ???????????????????? #pojd #czechteam #fedcupfinal
Between both teams, only Garcia and Pliskova played in three rubbers per tie en route to and including the finals. Each of them had a combined singles-doubles record of 7-2.
This was the third time in team history France lost a Fed Cup final by a 3-2 score, having fallen to Russia in 2004 and 2005.
Dating back to the 2015 final against Russia, this was the fourth tie in a row that was decided by a live fifth rubber for the Czech Republic. Pliskova was on the court for all of the clinchers.
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