Fed Cup Final: Czech Republic vs Russia, Day 1 Match Previews & Predictions
The 2015 Fed Cup final promises to be an epic when a Petra Kvitova led Czech Republic takes on a Maria Sharapova led Russia at the 02 Arena in Prague. The Czech Republic have been dominant in recent years, having won the tournament in 3 of the last 4 years. Petra Kvitova has been the spearhead in each campaign, winning 20 of 22 Fed Cup singles matches since 2011. Saturday’s singles matches will be critical to the final outcome, Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova will be the strong favourites, an upset in either match will change the outlook of the entire tie.
Match 1: Petra Kvitova vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
The pressure will be fully on Petra Kvitova when she comes up against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first match of the 2015 Fed Cup final on Saturday in Prague. It is extremely important for Kvitova to win this match and get the Czech Republic off to a winning start, a loss here would likely see Russia end day 1 with a 2-0 lead given Maria Sharapova will start a very strong favourite against Karolina Pliskova in the second match of the day.
Both Kvitova and Pavlyuchenkova showed good form in the later stages of the season. Kvitova reached the final at the WTA Finals in Singapore, however she did finish the tournament with 2 wins and 3 losses. Importantly, Kvitova did defeat Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, which will give her confidence heading into the reverse singles rubber against the Russian number 1.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s recent indoor form has been great, she will certainly be no pushover. Pavlyuchenkova claimed the title in Linz before reaching the final in Moscow, amassing a 19 match winning streak at indoor events before falling to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final in Moscow. Pavlyuchenkova will enter her match against Kvitova with nothing to lose, she isn’t expected to win this match, making her a very dangerous opponent given her ability on this surface.
Petra Kvitova holds a 6-3 head-to-head record over Pavlyuchenkova, on hard courts Petra’s head-to-head lead over the Russian is just 4-3. Kvitova won the only meeting between the pair in 2015, recording a 6-1 6-4 win over Pavlyuchenkova on route to claiming the title in Madrid.
This is a really tough match to call, Kvitova has to start the clear favourite but I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset. Pavlyuchenkova’s record at indoor events cannot be ignored and she often raises her level in big matches at big events. It has been a really season for Kvitova, plagued by illness, I believe Kvitova is vulnerable this week. This should be a really close match and could very well end in a victory for Russia.
Prediction: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Petra Kvitova in 3 sets
Match 2: Karolina Pliskova vs Maria Sharapova
The Czech Republic made a surprise decision to give Karolina Pliskova the nod over Lucie Safarova to play in Saturday’s opening singles rubber. Karolina will face the ultimate test when she comes up against Maria Sharapova who is playing in her first Fed Cup final. Maria will be desperate to add a Fed Cup title to her resume, it is extremely important for Russia that Maria wins both of her singles matches. This will be the very first meeting between Karolina and Maria.
Karolina Pliskova and Maria Sharapova also bring good form into the event. Pliskova reached the final in Zhuhai whilst Maria Sharapova reached the semi-final stage at the WTA Finals in Singapore before falling to Petra Kvitova. Both Karolina and Maria showed good form during the group stages at each event where they both went unbeaten.
It will be interesting to see how Karolina matches up against Maria in their very first meeting. Karolina is certainly one of very few players on tour that has the firepower to match Maria from the service line and from the baseline. However Maria’s experience level and record in big matches is far greater and could be a major factor in this match-up.
I suspect a determined Maria Sharapova will be far too good for Karolina Pliskova on this occasion. Maria always raises her level on occasions like this, the hostile Prague crowd should bring out the best Sharapova. It will be tough for Pliskova to keep up with Maria.