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Aussies miss chances against Czechs

By Chris Pike
10 February 2013 05:02AM EST

AUSTRALIA always faced a massive task taking on defending champions Czech Republic but will be disappointed to have lost both singles matches of the Fed Cup tie in Ostrava on Saturday.

Australia's Fed Cup team earned its way back into the World Group competition for 2013 after wins over Switzerland and Germany last year, and travelled to Ostrava with a strong team and for the first time under new coach Alicia Molik.

Taking on the Czech Republic was always going to be tough, though, with the hosts coming off winning the Fed Cup last year and still possessing a tough line-up again with world No. 8 Petra Kvitova and No. 18 Lucie Safarova in singles action.

Molik chose Jarmila Gajdosova to play the first singles clash of the tie up against former Wimbledon champion Kvitova, and the Czech star was able to prevail 7-6 (2), 6-3.

It was then Australia's world No. 9 and 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur in action against Safarova, and despite the Aussie creating a host of opportunities, she couldn’t capitalise and Safarova won in two tie-break sets, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4).

Gajdosova made a bright start to her big task of taking on Kvitova when the world No. 168 raced out to a 4-2 lead in the opening set. However, the Czech broke back and then withstood Gajdosova's desperate attempts to break again to lead 6-5 and then serve for the set.

The set went into a tie-break which Kvitova's class shone through as she won seven points to two, and then she cruised through the second set breaking serve in the third game and then winning it comfortably 6-3 to put the Czech Republic up 1-0.

Gajdosova was reasonably pleased with how she played up against a quality opponent in hostile territory.

"I thought I played pretty decent in the whole match and I had a lot of chances. I had break point chances when she came up with big serves and winners so that was really out of my hands," Gajdosova said.

"I would have liked to play the breaker differently than I did, but I think I still made my own chances and unfortunately I didn’t take them and she played well when she had to.

"We are playing on their ground and I can't help if the crowd doesn’t like us very much, but they are a good crowd and support their team. They have won the Fed Cup twice so of course they are going to support their own team on their own ground."

Stosur certainly came into her clash with Safarova the favourite, though, and the Australian started just in that fashion opening up an early 5-3 lead. However, the Czech 26-year-old fought back to force a tie-break and Safarova eventually prevailed eight points to six.

The Australian then again had her chances in the second breaking Safarova's serve to lead 6-5 and serve for the set, however, she couldn’t do it and it went to another tie-break with the Czech again prevailing, this time seven points to four to put the Czech Republic up 2-0.

Stosur was disappointed not to be able to capitalise on the opportunities she created against Safarova, but is now looking forward to taking on Kvitova.

"I obviously had those set points in the first set and served again for the second set, so there really wasn’t a lot in that match and unfortunately for me I guess she got all those important points to get it back even and then kick on to get each set," Stosur said.

"To be honest I really wasn’t that nervous. It was a really good atmosphere out there and I was trying to keep all of that out of the equation. Maybe in the first set it looked like nerves, but overall I thought I played and handled that quite well.

"Maybe it was good practice for Petra, though, with them both being lefties. I'm looking forward to that challenge and we've had a couple of good matches in the past. I don’t feel like I've got much to lose against Petra so hopefully I can go and play another good match."

Sunday's action will begin with Kvitova taking on Stosur with the Australian needing to win to keep her country alive before Gajdosova is set to face Safarova.

If required, the doubles will feature Australia's Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua, fresh off making the Australian Open final, up against Czech pair Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.

In other Fed Cup World Group action, Russia and Japan are tied at 1-1 after Maria Kirilenko beat Kimiko Date-Krumm 7-6 (3), 6-4 and Ayumi Morita downed Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-2.

Serbia and the Slovak Republic are also locked at 1-1 with Daniela Hantuchova beating Bojana Jovanovski and Dominika Cibulkova downing Vesna Dolonic when the Slovak player was forced to retire with cramp despite leading 6-4, 5-4.

It would be a famous win for Serbia without Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic.

In the other tie, Italy is tied 1-1 with the USA after Sara Errani eased past Jamie Hampton 6-2, 6-1, but then Varvara Lepchenko beat Roberta Vinci 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.

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