Siniakova leads Czechs to sixth Fed Cup title in eight years

Barbora Strycova

The Czech Republic took a 2-0 lead over defending champions the United States as the Fed Cup Final got underway at Prague's O2 Arena. Making her debut, 19-year-old Kenin pushed Barbora Strycova to three sets on Saturday, before Riske lost to Siniakova, 6-3, 7-6 (2).

The 22-year-old Katerina Siniakova has completed a ideal day for the Czech team, beating Alison Riske 6-3 7-6 in an hour and 38 minutes for her second Fed Cup win over the Americans after toppling Shelby Rogers a year ago in the semi-final.

No team has ever come back from an 0-2 deficit in a Fed Cup final and the Czechs are unbeaten at home in their last 10 ties, dating back to 2009.

The U.S. team, though, had to rely on three Fed Cup newcomers as they were missing Serena and Venus Williams, holders of a combined 30 grand slam singles titles, along with world number six Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, semi-finalist at both Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows.

At the time of writing, Petra Kvitova was forced out of pre-event training and media commitments with a virus, and her absence would be a tough blow for a team already without world No8, Karolina Pliskova, who is out with a calf injury. But it could be the singles rubbers that determine the result, and fortunately Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Strycova are also ranked 31 and 33 respectively in singles.

"We can only be aggressive and go after it tomorrow", Riske said.

In doubles, the final match of the best-of-five series, Riske and Danielle Collins will play for the United States against the No. 1 doubles pair of Barbora Krejcikova and Siniakova. "It was up and down, nerves", 22-year-old Siniakova said on the court after the match that was just short of the longest rubber -- at four hours flat -- in Fed Cup history.

The hosts are a win away from their sixth title in the last eight editions and their 11th overall, including five as the former Czechoslovakia.

Despite that, she thinks the Czech team - strong favorites against a less experienced American squad -will feel the weight of expectation considering that they will have a partisan home crowd in attendance.

"It is amusing because it is her first (Fed Cup tie) and it is my last one", Strycova said.

"We did not get the result that we wanted but nobody can say that we didn't leave it all out there", usa captain Kathy Rinaldi said.

"For me it was a lot of emotions", Strycova said on court after the win.

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