Prague: Petra Kvitova regards this weekend's Fed Cup final as her last chance to salvage a year which has been a big comedown after her stellar 2011. Kvitova led the Czech Republic last year to its first Fed Cup title in 23 years, and this weekend she will help defend that crown at home against Serbia.
Despite withdrawing midway through last week's elite WTA Championships with bronchitis, she said on Wednesday she hoped "to be 100 percent fit on Saturday" for the opening singles. "We expect her to play," Czech captain Petr Pala said.
She and the doubles team are the keys to the Czech's chances, but Kvitova will start with question marks over her fitness and form. In a season plagued by injuries and illnesses, she has dropped from being ranked No. 2 to No. 8. She failed to successfully retain any of the six titles she won in 2011, including Wimbledon and the WTA Championships, but won two tour events and reached the semifinals at the Australian and French Opens.
"Of course, I didn't win any Grand Slam," she said. "But I'm so happy that I'm here and I was able to be in the top eight in Istanbul. So, I think it's a good season and we try, all of us, to play our best and to win this trophy again." Kvitova has been struggling in the last two months, in particular, with just one win in her last three WTA events.
The Fed Cup, however, has been a success story for her. She is unbeaten over the last two years, claiming 10 consecutive singles victories. A year ago, she beat Maria Kirilenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final in Moscow. The Czechs have beaten Germany and Italy to set up the final in Prague on an indoor hard-court.
"We'll be under pressure because it's the final and we're the defending champions," Kvitova said. "All our fans are not ready to accept anything but a victory. But at the same time, they all will be on our side." Serbia, meanwhile, has been enjoying its best Fed Cup season since the country became independent. It recorded first victories in the World Group with away wins over Belgium and Russia to reach its first final.
"It's a historic moment for us, a very special moment," said Jelena Jankovic, one of the two former world No. 1s on the Serbian team. "We're all very thrilled," added Ana Ivanovic. Pala said: "They're both very dangerous. They're used to playing big games." The Serbs believe the court in the 02 Arena, where the final sold out in six hours, benefits them and could slow down Kvitova's speedy game.
"It doesn't seem to be fast, which is very good," Ivanovic said. "We feel really comfortable on it." Jankovic added: "The surface suits us and we have a couple more days to adapt." If the best-of-five match is undecided before the final doubles, the Czechs seem to have an advantage, relying on the pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, who reached the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, London Olympics and WTA Championships finals this season.