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Czechs close to retaining Fed Cup title

Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova returns a ball to Serbia's Ana Ivanovic during their final match of the Fed Cup tennis tournament in Prague
Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova returns a ball to Serbia's Ana Ivanovic during their final match of the Fed Cup tennis tournament in Prague

By Jan Lopatka

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic cruised to a 2-0 lead after the opening singles of the Fed Cup final against Serbia on Saturday, putting them well on course to successfully defend their title.

Petra Kvitova shrugged off a cold that forced her to retire from the WTA championships last week, beating Jelena Jankovic 6-4 6-1 in the second singles rubber to leave the hosts needing just one win from Sunday's reverse singles or doubles match.

World number eight Kvitova looked wobbly early on, going down 4-2, but she found her form to take the first set before rattling through the second.

"I did not know what to expect really at the beginning. I had a little trouble breathing, towards the end my legs were weakening and I had a headache, so I wished for the game to be over," Kvitova told reporters.

"Jankovic played very well at the beginning, I knew I had to wait for her mistakes. I did not try to go for it from the start, not to make mistakes myself."

Earlier Lucie Safarova, the world number 17, took the initiative to break Serbia's Ana Ivanovic for a 2-1 lead in the first set of the opening rubber.

Ivanovic fought back to level at 2-2 but Safarova won another break in the seventh game and went on to take the first set.

"I tried to play into her backhand, taking advantage of my left-handed play, then opening room on the forehand side. That is my favorite scenario," Safarova said.

"I was really nervous at the beginning but that is part of huge matches like this, it went away."

Ivanovic, who had lost her previous three encounters with Safarova, looked shaky going into the second set and lost her initial serve.

Safarova broke the world number 12 again for 4-2 before claiming victory.

"The score was in two sets but the game was a lot closer than that," said Ivanovic.

"I was not as aggressive, and these are the little details that make the difference, she used them better than me.

"In the second set I was coming back and we had huge game at 4-3. She played well to save some break points, if I won that game it could have gone either way."

The Czechs have the chance to complete a tennis double with the men's team playing the Davis Cup final against Spain in two weeks' time.

The Czechs, who won five Fed Cup titles in the 1970s and 1980s as Czechoslovakia, overcame Germany and Italy on their path to the Prague final while Serbia beat Belgium and Russia.

(editing by Mark Meadows)

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