Czechs, Spain tied as Pliskova, Muguruza win

PRAGUE: Reigning champions the Czech Republic were tied 1-1 with Spain in their first-round Fed Cup tie as number-one players Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza won their opening rubbers on Saturday. World number seven Muguruza, the French Open champion, beat 17th-ranked Barbora Strycova 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 in the eastern Czech steel hub of Ostrava to put Spain ahead. Third-ranked Pliskova then levelled the tie after seeing off world number 70 Lara Arruabarrena 6-4, 7-5.
The Czechs are seeking their fourth straight Fed Cup title after winning five of the last six editions of the team competition. Spain last won the trophy in 1998. In the opening rubber on the hardcourt of the Ostravar Arena, the 23-year-old Muguruza took the first set to love as Strycova struggled with her first serve and piled up errors.
The 30-year-old Czech recovered offering more courage and some fine offensive tennis in set two, breaking Muguruza’s serve twice for a 6-3 win.
But her composure crumbled in the third set as Muguruza put her under heavy pressure to cruise to a convincing 6-1 victory.
“My serve was ridiculous today, which played a big role because I was under pressure much of the time,” Strycova told the public Czech TV.
In a clash of two 24-year-olds, Pliskova took the first set on a single break before breaking Arruabarrena again early into the second set.
The Spaniard fought back and even earned a set point on a 5-4 lead as Pliskova lost her concentration for a while, but that turned out to be a wake-up call for the Czech 2016 US Open finalist who earned another break to win.
“I made an awful lot of mistakes, that’s what the entire match was about, either I slammed it in or I made a mistake,” said Pliskova.
“I knew we were 1-0 down but that doesn’t have an impact on me on the court, I simply tried to win the point.”
In Sunday’s reverse singles, Pliskova will face Muguruza and Strycova is then due to take on Arruabarrena.
Czechs Lucie Safarova and Katerina Siniakova were drawn for the potentially decisive doubles rubber against Sara Sorribes Tormo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, but the line-up is most likely to change.
The Czechs miss 12th-ranked two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova over a hand injury she suffered when fighting a knife-wielding burglar last December. Spain have lost world number 14 Carla Suarez Navarro to a right shoulder injury. — AFP