Fed Cup final level after Pliskova triumphs in marathon match


Karolina Pliskova came out on top in an epic Fed Cup final opener with Kristina Mladenovic, but Caroline Garcia ensured France finished the opening day in Strasbourg level with defending champions Czech Republic.

Pliskova finally got the better of Mladenovic to win the first singles rubber 6-3 4-6 16-14 after a gruelling match lasting three hours and 48 minutes - the last set seeing more games than any previous Fed Cup final singles match.

However, Garcia made it 1-1 by upsetting two-time grand-slam winner Petra Kvitova with a 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 win in the second and final rubber of the day.

Pliskova comfortably took the opening set, but an excellent fightback from Mladenovic forced a decider that would go on to last close to two-and-a-half hours.

After Mladenovic fought from 0-30 down to hold with the Czech looking to take it 7-5, a marathon back and forth ensued.

Pliskova was unable to convert a pair of match points in game 18, the Frenchwoman showing composure by following a drop-shot with a brilliant cross-court backhand to win the game.

Mladenovic, who frequently received massages on her right leg from captain Amelie Mauresmo, put herself in a position to serve for the set by breaking for a 12-11 lead, but she was unable to consolidate.

The match finally reached its conclusion when Pliskova earned three match points and saw the first converted when Mladenovic hit a forehand from the baseline long.

Garcia restored parity in the following match, though she required a tie-break to win the opening set after letting a 4-2 lead slip.

Kvitova dropped her serve three times in the second set, though Garcia had to fend off two break points before serving out the match.

Garcia will face Pliskova before Mladenovic takes on Kvitova in the remaining singles rubbers, with a doubles match pitting Alize Cornet and Pauline Parmentier against Lucie Hradecka and Barbora Strycova the final match.