STRASBOURG: Barbora Strycova forced a deciding fifth rubber in Sunday’s Fed Cup final after beating France’s Alize Cornet to draw the Czech Republic level at 2-2 in Strasbourg. Strycova replaced injured two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and kept alive Czech hopes of a fifth title in six years with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) victory. She will now team up with world number six Karolina Pliskova against French Open doubles champions Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic in the title-decider.
Earlier, Garcia had given France a 2-1 lead with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over US Open finalist Pliskova. Garcia had Saturday defeated Kvitova 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 to bring the hosts level after Pliskova had edged Mladenovic 6-3, 4-6, 16-14 in an epic encounter over almost four hours. Mladenovic had been scheduled to take on world number 11 Kvitova on Sunday but complained of cramping after Saturday’s marathon battle. Skipper Amelie Mauresmo elected to rest her and instead sent in Cornet, while Strycova was drafted in by Czech captain Petr Pala in place of Kvitova. France are trying to win a third crown and first since 2003.