Strycova gives Czechs early lead in Fed Cup final

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Barbora Strycova beat Sofia Kenin in the opening rubber of the Fed Cup final in Prague on Saturday to give the Czech Republic a 1-0 lead against the United States, the defending champions.

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Tennis – Fed Cup – World Group Final – Czech Republic v United States – O2 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic – November 10, 2018 Czech Republic’s Barbora Strycova celebrates winning her match against Sofia Kenin of the U.S. REUTERS/David W Cerny

The veteran Strycova, playing in her final tie for the Czechs after a 16-year Fed Cup career, gave up the first set to the 19-year-old Kenin, who fought through early nerves in her first taste of Fed Cup action.

But Strycova, playing a key role with world number eight Karolina Pliskova out injured and Petra Kvitova having withdrawn with illness, called on all her experience.

The 32-year-old brought the home crowd back into the match by racing ahead 3-0 in the second set and secured the set four games later with a big serve that Kenin returned high and long.

β€œI was very nervous at the beginning,” Strycova said after the match, adding she was leaving the ball too short and allowing Kenin to attack.

β€œIn the second set, I started to move much better and I also served much better, which helps a lot.”

Strycova carried the momentum into the third and withstood a late challenge from the American for a 6-7 6-1 6-4 victory.

It was the ideal start for the Czechs, winners of five of the last seven Fed Cup titles and unbeaten in 10 home ties since 2009.

They remain heavy favourites, even without their leading duo, against a U.S. team featuring three debutants, including Kenin, because their best players are all unavailable.

In the second rubber, world number one ranked doubles player Katerina Siniakova was facing experienced American, Alison Riske.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Ian Chadband

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