Tennis: Czechs edge France to retain Fed Cup title

Barbora Strycova (right) and Karolina Pliskova (left) of Czech Republic celebrate winning against Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic of France during the Fed Cup Tennis World Group final between France and the Czech Republic at the Rhenus Sport
Barbora Strycova (right) and Karolina Pliskova (left) of Czech Republic celebrate winning against Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic of France during the Fed Cup Tennis World Group final between France and the Czech Republic at the Rhenus Sport stadium in Strasbourg, on Nov 13, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

STRASBOURG, France (AFP) - Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova clinched the Czech Republic's fifth Fed Cup title in six years on Sunday (Nov 13) after beating France in the the deciding doubles rubber in Strasbourg.

With the tie level at 2-2, US Open finalist Pliskova teamed up with Strycova to defeat French Open doubles champions Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 7-5 to prolong the Czechs' reign.

It was their third triumph in succession and 10th overall, with only the United States boasting more titles with 17.

France had grabbed a 2-1 lead earlier in the day after Garcia moved them within reach of a first Fed Cup crown since 2003 following a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over sixth-ranked Pliskova.

But Strycova, drafted in to replace injured two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova by Czech captain Petr Pala, kept their hopes alive by overcoming Alize Cornet 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) to force a fifth and final rubber.

Mladenovic sat out the reverse singles complaining of cramp after losing a four-hour marathon to Pliskova in the opening match on Saturday, but returned to partner Garcia in the doubles.

However she dropped serve at 5-all in the first set after netting a bruising forehand from Pliskova and the Czechs surged in front.

Pliskova and Strycova then broke again to move 3-2 ahead in the second, but the French pair responded to draw level at 4-all.

Mladenovic's serve came unstuck once more though when Pliskova reacted superbly to dig out a volley and convert the decisive break point for a 6-5 lead as the Czech Republic extended their recent domination.

France had been seeking to win a third crown - the last of which came when captain Amelie Mauresmo inspired them to a 4-1 triumph over the United States 13 years ago.