Maria Sharapova came from a set down to defeat Petra Kvitova in the first reverse singles yesterday to give Russia a 2-1 lead over defending champion Czech Republic in the Fed Cup final.
In a matchup of two top 10 players, the fourth-ranked Sharapova rallied to a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over the sixth-ranked Kvitova to put Russia one win away from its first Fed Cup title since 2008.
In the second reverse singles, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova takes on Karolina Pliskova who needs to win to keep the Czechs in the best-of-five series.
The tie is played at Prague's O2 Arena, where security has been stepped up following the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Sharapova went 5-2 up in the final set before closing out with a forehand winner.
"Personally, it's an incredible achievement for me because I've never been in the Fed Cup final," Sharapova said. "And I won two of my matches."
In Saturday's singles, Kvitova put the host team ahead by beating Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 before Sharapova leveled the tie by defeating Pliskova 6-3, 6-4. Sharapova, who helped Russia on its way to winning its last title in 2008, was playing in her first final. With the victory she improved her head-to-head record against Kvitova to 7-4.
Sharapova broke for a 5-4 lead before serving out the second set with a forehand winner to force the decisive third set.
"I felt that once I got the second set I got the energy back," the Russian said.
Kvitova attacked with a big forehand at early stages, putting Sharapova under pressure.
"It hurts," Kvitova said. "But I know I did all I could. It was just not enough."
The Czech didn't waste time and broke her in the opening game and again in the final game of the first set when the Russian hit the net with a forehand volley on her first set point.
"Petra played unbelievable in the first set. She was so aggressive, hitting really deep all the strokes. I didn't have the momentum in the first set," Sharapova said.
In doubles, the Czech pair of Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova is set to play Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.