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Tennis: Sharapova beats Pliskova to even Fed Cup final in Prague

AP , Saturday 14 Nov 2015
Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova of Russia returns a ball to Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic during the International Tennis Federation Fed Cup final match between Czech Republic and Russia on November 14, 2015 in Prague

Maria Sharapova won to put Russia level with the defending champion Czech Republic at 1-1 in the Fed Cup final on Saturday.

Sharapova defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-4, after two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova overcame a slow start to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-1, 6-1.

The reverse singles and doubles are on Sunday at O2 Arena, where security has been stepped up following the terrorist attacks in Paris.

The players and 13,000 spectators observed a minute of silence during the opening ceremony for the victims of the deadly attacks in the French capital. Because of the attacks, Czech President Milos Zeman canceled his visit to the final to attend a meeting of the country's security council.

Sharapova, who helped Russia win its last title in 2008 but was playing in her first final, wasted two match points at 5-3, and converted the third one on serve when Pliskova's backhand went long.

She struggled at times on serve, hitting nine double faults, but compensated with 28 winners to Pliskova's 11 in their first encounter.

The 11th-ranked Pliskova went 2-0 up in the second set but fourth-ranked Sharapova used strong returns to fight back, winning four straight games. She had to cope with another scare at 4-3, holding from 0-40, and pumped her fist when she won the game with a powerful forehand winner.

Earlier, Kvitova won the opener when Pavlyuchenkova conceded on a double fault.

Kvitova, who has led the Czechs to three Fed Cup titles in the last four years, was not able to find her game in the first set before staging a comeback.

''I was nervous,'' she said. ''It was difficult. I was trying to hold my serve in the second set and then I had an opportunity to break her. That game was really key for the second set, and maybe for the match.''

It took Kvitova 10 break points to finally break the Russian for the first time, in the second game of the second set. Another break came for 4-0 when Pavlyuchenkova double-faulted.

Kvitova found her rhythm with her typical fierce groundstrokes to dominate the rest of the match, and improve to 7-3 against her opponent, and 26-6 in Fed Cup singles.

''Overall, I wasn't playing bad,'' Pavlyuchenkova said. ''Just, she found her game, she started to hit crazy strokes, and then I was under pressure.''

Sunday's reverse singles begin with Kvitova playing Sharapova, then Pliskova takes on Pavlyuchenkova. In doubles, the Czech pair of Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova is set to play Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.

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