PRAGUE • Karolina Pliskova emerged as the Czech Republic's heroine after she won her singles rubber and then teamed up with Barbora Strycova to take the decisive doubles as the hosts retained tennis' Fed Cup title on Sunday.
Pliskova and Strycova beat Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in Prague to complete a 3-2 comeback victory, handing the Czechs their fourth trophy in five years.
It was their ninth title overall, including five as Czechoslovakia.
"It's the first experience for me in the Fed Cup (final) so I'm really happy (about) how we made it and we both played really good," said Pliskova, playing in only her second Fed Cup tie.
The world No. 11 was the star of the day, after she saw off 28th- ranked Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-4 in Sunday's second singles rubber.
"It's definitely one of the biggest wins in my career," added the 23- year-old, who was forced to return to the court for the decider as Lucie Safarova, ranked ninth in singles and fourth in doubles, was injured.
In the day's opener, Maria Sharapova, the world No. 4, ousted sixth-ranked Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to give Russia a 2-1 lead.
Sharapova had also defeated Pliskova 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday after Kvitova beat Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the opener.
"Personally it's an incredible achievement for me because I've never been in a Fed Cup final and I won two of my matches," said Sharapova after her fifth Fed Cup tie.
On Sunday night, her previous problems with the Russian team appeared to be behind her, with the star joining her team-mates for a post-final dinner. "Love my team," tweeted team-mate Pavlyuchenkova who posted a photo of the squad, name-checking the rest of the squad for good measure. "Girlzzzz," tweeted Sharapova in reply.
A decade ago, she was involved in a rift with her team-mate and now Russia captain Anastasia Myskina, who threatened to boycott the Fed Cup if Sharapova was selected for the Russian team.
Last week, Czech media reported that Sharapova had shunned the rest of the team and stayed in a different Prague hotel to the others. "Is that a serious question? Next question," the five-time Major champion snarled at a local reporter when asked to comment.
On court, however, she was all smiles. "There's no better feeling than being out on the court having so many people fly here from Russia to support you," she said.
"In an event like this... you're playing for your team-mates, for your country. It's a very unique feeling and it's so special."